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Can a DUI Stop Me from Becoming a U.S. Citizen?

The United States truly is the land of opportunity, and immigrants who come to the U.S. for a better life embrace becoming a citizen of this great nation, the land of the free. They don’t want anything to jeopardize the naturalization process.

Given the location of Orange County and its proximity to Mexico, we regularly represent clients who are Green Card holders from Mexico and neighboring countries who have been arrested for driving under the influence. We have DUI clients from other countries as well.

Whether a DUI defendant is a permanent resident, or planning to apply for U.S. citizenship in the near future, a recent DUI arrest can certainly cause them to worry about their ability to become a naturalized citizen.

Good Moral Character Determination

To become a naturalized citizen, the applicant must prove that he or she is a person of “good moral character,” especially in the five years before applying. If you have a recent DUI on your record, it is possible that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will deny your application because they believe you are not a person of good moral character. Much of it depends on the severity of the DUI case and your criminal record history.

The U.S. immigration laws do not have a clearly defined meaning for “good moral character.” Usually, courts interpret it to mean adhering to the moral standards of our society. For someone applying for U.S. citizenship, that could simply mean proving you’ve been a productive member of the community and that you haven’t broken the law.

With a recent DUI on your record, USCIS can use that against you. When your application lands on USCIS’s desk, the agency will immediately want to know about the facts of your DUI. They will want to know:

  • What was your blood alcohol concentration (BAC)?
  • Was there a child in your vehicle?
  • Was it your first DUI offense?
  • Were you in an accident?
  • Was anyone injured or killed?
  • Have you been convicted of any other crimes before the DUI?
  • Have you been convicted of a drug-related offense in the past?
  • Have you ever been in trouble for fraud or domestic violence?

Each person’s situation is different, therefore, there is no “on size fits all” approach to naturalization applicants who have DUIs on their record. It’s very fact specific. Should you include a DUI conviction on your N-400 application? Yes, absolutely. If an applicant omits information, such as criminal charges or a conviction on their application, they can face severe consequences. Besides, the DUI will turn up on the applicant’s background check.

Seek DUI Defense Representation Today

While a simple misdemeanor DUI (first offense) should not affect the naturalization process, a DUI could jeopardize a person’s permanent resident status, especially if it’s a drug-related or felony DUI. Of course, the best thing to do in the face of DUI charges is to try and avoid a conviction in the first place.

Protect your future and contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. for a free consultation. Get OC’s DUI Queen on your side!