police car in sideview mirror DUI arrestDriving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Florida, and its consequences can be particularly severe for non-U.S. citizens. The first mistake many immigrants make is thinking they can’t afford or don’t need a lawyer when they are facing a DUI. The reality is that the only way to protect your immigration status is to avoid a conviction, and your best chance of doing that is hiring a defense lawyer to fight the charges.

Defense lawyers Tim Flaherty and Brandi Merrifield protect the rights of people charged with a DUI—whether they are U.S. citizens or not. Contact us as soon as possible after your arrest to learn more about how we might be able to help you.

DUI Conviction and Immigration Consequences

Any criminal charge could impact your immigration status, but because Driving Under the Influence is seen as a serious crime that endangers the safety of others, it can have a particularly harsh effect on your desire to stay in the U.S. and become a citizen. Regardless of which of the following describes your current immigration status, a DUI conviction could be extremely detrimental.

Temporary Visa Holders

Non-U.S. citizens in Florida on temporary visas, such as tourists, students, and workers) can face immigration issues if convicted of DUI. In some cases, a DUI conviction can result in deportation, denial of re-entry into the United States, or complications during the visa renewal process.

Permanent Residency (Green Card) Holders

Green card holders who are convicted of DUI may face adverse consequences, especially if their DUI case involves aggravating factors such as injuries or fatalities. A DUI conviction can be considered a crime of moral turpitude or an aggravated felony, potentially leading to deportation proceedings.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Recipients

DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, are vulnerable to immigration consequences if convicted of a DUI. A DUI conviction can be considered a significant misdemeanor, which can jeopardize their DACA status and lead to potential removal proceedings.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Holders

Immigrants who have arrived from designated unsafe countries and have been granted TPS status may find their legal status in the United States at risk if they are convicted of a DUI. Depending on the circumstances, a DUI conviction can trigger deportation proceedings, potentially leading to the revocation of TPS benefits.

Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Non-U.S. citizens seeking asylum or refugee status may face challenges in their applications if they have a DUI conviction. While a single DUI offense may not automatically disqualify them, it can be a factor considered during the asylum or refugee adjudication process.

Hiring a Lawyer Could Help You Avoid Deportation

The potential for deportation after a DUI conviction underscores the importance of a strong legal defense. Here are some strategies that non-U.S. citizens can consider:

  • Fight the DUI charge. Hire a DUI defense lawyer to help you mount a strong defense against the DUI charge to reduce the likelihood of a conviction or negotiate for a less severe charge.
  • Expunge or seal records. In some cases, expunging or sealing DUI records can help mitigate the immigration consequences. Ask your defense lawyer about this possibility.
  • Compliance with probation. If probation is part of the sentence, strict compliance is essential to avoid further legal trouble.
  • Consult an immigration attorney. Seek counsel from an experienced immigration attorney who can evaluate your specific case and advise you on the best course of action.

A DUI conviction in Florida can have serious implications for non-U.S. citizens, potentially affecting their immigration status and even leading to deportation. It is crucial for non-U.S. citizens facing DUI charges to seek legal counsel promptly to navigate the complex intersection of criminal and immigration law. Understanding the potential consequences and taking appropriate measures can help protect their rights and immigration status. Do not hesitate to reach out to our office in Fort Walton Beach to find out if we can help.

Tim Flaherty
Connect with me
Florida Criminal Defense Attorney