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A DUI Conviction Could Change Your Immigration Status

The consequences of a DUI are hard on anyone, but for people from other countries who are living and working in the United States, those consequences can be devastating. Whether here temporarily or hoping to achieve permanent status, non-U.S. citizens convicted of DUI in Rhode Island face not only the penalties provided under DUI law, but also potential changes in their immigration status that could include deportation. Several factors come into play that determine what will happen to a non-citizen following a DUI conviction.

DUI costs and employment

People who have DUI charges must worry about bail, towing and impound charges, as well as court costs associated with their arrest. These costs can amount to thousands of dollars, and make it difficult to keep up with rent and other monthly bills. People who are working in the United States to help their families at home may find themselves suddenly unable to do so. The state may also suspend the driver's license of someone convicted of DUI. This can lead to a loss of employment if driving is a necessary part of the job, or if there are no other means of getting to work. For people in the United States on work visas, this job loss might force them to return home.

A DUI conviction may lead to loss of employment even if driving privileges do not get suspended. Some employers consider crimes involving alcohol a reason for termination, particularly if employees are in positions where alcohol might affect their ability to act safely around others. Crew members on boats or people who operate heavy machinery may be barred from those positions. Loss of employment due to a DUI conviction may also occur because of jail time that causes missed work. Without proof of a job, people who were happily working in the U.S. might find themselves headed home because of one night of poor judgment.

DUI and immigration status

While a DUI does not mean an automatic change in immigration status, it can lead to hearings, detainment and potentially deportation. A person legally in the United States on a work visa can lose that status after two or more misdemeanors. That means a second DUI conviction, or a DUI in conjunction with another misdemeanor could cause a loss of work authorization and deportation. A third DUI in five years could lead to felony charges, and a felony conviction can also lead to a loss of work authorization and removal. People who wish to someday make their status in the United States permanent face a long road once they have a DUI conviction. Any criminal conviction can stop someone from becoming a naturalized citizen, even for a first-offense misdemeanor.

Driving under the influence is taken very seriously in Rhode Island, and by the United States government. If you find yourself facing DUI charges, you need an experienced lawyer who can help you navigate the legal process to arrive at the best possible outcome. 

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