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Can you be deported because of a DUI?

Drunk driving is dangerous. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, 32% of all fatal traffic accidents in the state in 2019 were alcohol-related.

In an effort to improve traffic safety, Virginia has some of the toughest DUI penalties in the nation. Even someone convicted for a first-offense DUI faces a mandatory minimum fine of $250 and may have their driver’s license suspended for one year.

For people who are not U.S. citizens, the consequences of a DUI conviction can be even more severe. Some immigrants convicted of DUI face the possibility of deportation.

Deportable offenses

Generally, an undocumented immigrant can face deportation if they are convicted of any criminal offense. It’s possible they can be deported even before conviction.

Documented immigrants have somewhat more protection from deportation. They can be deported if they are convicted of certain types of crimes. Among the most common are weapons offenses and certain drug crimes. Those convicted of aggravated felonies (typically, but not always, involving crimes of violence) can be deported, as can those convicted of “crimes involving moral turpitude.”

This last category is very loosely defined. It can include violent and nonviolent crimes that appear to suggest bad character, and can include everything from perjury to abuse of a minor. If a documented immigrant has been convicted of such a crime with a penalty of one year or more in prison, they can be deported.

Because the category of “crimes involving moral turpitude” is so broadly defined, immigrations officials often rely on the category as a justification for deportation when other categories don’t apply. Still, it’s not clear that a first-offense DUI counts as a crime involving moral turpitude.

Anyone who is charged with DUI deserves a defense, and a defense is especially important for immigrants who do not wish to be deported.

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