Immigrants in Georgia usually understand that criminal activity can affect their legal status. Criminal convictions are among the top causes of involuntary removal from the country. Those convicted of certain types of crimes, including drug offenses and violent criminal acts, are at risk of removal from the United States. Other crimes may not be as big of a concern unless someone faces multiple charges or a lengthy jail sentence.
With that said, an immigrant in Georgia arrested for a driving under the influence (DUI) offense might assume that this non-violent offense should have very little impact on their immigration status. However, even those who technically beat DUI charges can sometimes be at risk of removal from the country.
Guilty pleas are dangerous for immigrants
There are many ways that people respond to DUI charges to avoid the worst possible penalties. Some people enter a guilty plea and hope that the courts will be lenient with them during sentencing. A plea to a lesser offense is a common solution utilized in DUI cases. The actual charge on someone’s record will be a minor offense instead of a DUI.
However, there are risks that come from using this strategy as an immigrant. The lesser offense could trigger immigration penalties, especially if a judge orders someone to serve more than 180 days in state custody. The charge on their record could also influence decisions about someone’s status.
The review of someone’s criminal record is a highly subjective process, and different judges or immigration professionals may handle the same charges differently. An immigrant who pleads guilty to a lesser offense may not have a DUI on their record, but they could still be at risk of removal from the country.
The charges on their record, the penalties imposed or the connection with addiction could all influence immigration status. Cases involving someone with a substance abuse disorder can end in someone’s removal from the United States. Especially if someone already has another minor issue on their record, a DUI or a plea to a lesser offense could lead to their removal.
The best option for an immigrant accused of drunk driving is often an assertive defense. Reviewing the state evidence with an attorney and fighting DUI charges can offer an immigrant the most protection when they’re worried about removal from the country.