Drunk Driving Offenses and U.S. Citizenship

Published: 26th February 2011
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Thinking about applyingfor citizenship, but got a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) on your data? In many states it is still probable to become a U.S. citizen even though you have had one (or sometimes two) convictions for drunk driving in your past. One of the prerequisites for U.S. citizenship is that a person be of "good moral character."

If a person is condemned of certain crimes (no matter how long ago), they can be considered to be a person of bad moral character. Some citizenship appliers are lawfully more anxious about their previous DUI conviction than passing the citizenship test. However, convictions for plain DUI misdemeanor in most states are mostly not considered to show bad moral character because the driver did not aim to drive drunk.

Each of the 50 states in America has drunk driving law that is written differently. In general, if the words "reckless" or "had knowledge" or "malicious" or "evil intent" are inscribed in the drunk driving law of a state, the DUI conviction can initiate citizenship to be not granted of. Also, if the state law has words written in it that forbid driving drunk while a person's driver's license was frozen, it would be obvious that the individual identified they were not assumed to be driving and that would be bad moral character.

As described in most state laws, DUI and DWI means that a person was driving with a certain blood level of alcohol or other intoxicating material higher than an amount that is lawfully permissible under that state's law. It is essential to look at the actual wording of each state's DUI or DWI statute to observe what words are employed to define the felony in that state.

Take the state of California's drunk driving law for an instance. California Vehicle Code section 23152 (a) is a regular driving under the influence law (a situation where no child was endangered). Conviction of California Vehicle Code section 23152 (a) compels that the driver was under the influence of an intoxicating chemical and does not necessitate that the person was careless or malevolent or had evil goal (reckless driving on its own doesn't count). As the California state law is inscribed, there is no mention of whether the driver's license was suspended, canceled, repealed, refused or restricted as a result of a preceding DUI. Hence, in California, having a DUI conviction does not prevent a person from obtaining U.S. citizenship (of course there can be no allegations of alcoholism in the court documents, which would be a ground for denying citizenship).

It is a fact that driving under the influence takes the hazard of automobile accidents. But laws against drunk driving are aimed to avert injury to the driver and others. Many drunk driving arrests occur at a sobriety checkpoint or in other non-accident state. By its nature, simple drunk driving is usually not believed a crime of violence (a crime of violence is an offense where intentional physical force is used against the other person). When a person uses physical force against the other person by pushing or hitting him, it is visible it is not an accident and that it was deliberate. When a person drives under the influence there is usually no intention to use physical force to hurt a person. The U.S. Supreme Court held unanimously in 2004 that plain driving under the influence offenses are not believed as felony of violence and therefore applicants for citizenship with a DUI on their list should be regarded as a person of good moral character for the reason of determining citizenship status.

enterants who request for citizenship (called "naturalization") may still be on probation for the DUI when they file the N-400 Naturalization application. Being on probation (for anything) is considered bad moral character so they cannot still be on probation at the time of their citizenship interview, which in some parts of the United States takes place four to 6 months after filing the application. In many states a person can ask that their probation be terminated early so that they are off probation by the time of their citizenship interview.

Some individuals with a DUI or DWI in their history may desire to hire an Immigration Attorney who has experience with citizenship and DUI convictions to embody them in their citizenship case to have the best possible chance of being approved. The Immigration Attorney examines the police report, the court documents, the exact language of the state statute, the wording of the plea bargain (or conviction if the case went to trial) and the sentencing documents before the citizenship application is presented to see whether the individual is qualified for citizenship.

The U.S. Supreme Court can alter their mind at any time, and each state's law could be altered at any time, so it is wise for the Immigration Attorney get an update on the laws prior to filing the application for citizenship. Certain documents concerning the DUI conviction should be presented with the citizenship application, but others should not - and the Immigration Attorney knows which files to present .

In addition, individuals with a DUI or DWI may desire to employ an Immigration Attorney to go with them to the citizenship interview, as the interviewing Officer will be asking some intense inquiries about good moral character in general for the previous five years because of the drunk driving conviction. The Officer can also take into account any of the person's conduct prior to the five years if it isrelated to the person's current moral behavior. The person should acknowledge responsibility for the DUI conviction and be ready to explain verbally and through data (like completion of classes and/or volunteer work, involvement in the church etc.) that he is not a consistent drunk and that he has transformed his life for the better. In general, if an immigration lawyer is there at the US citizenship interview, there will be less enquiries asked about the DUI incident itself.

In most states, it is definitely possible to prove that a citizenship candidate has good moral character even with a DUI or DWI in their history so long as the citizenship application is carefully prepared and the interview goes well.

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