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Drunk Driving and Your Immigration Status

Are you an immigrant? Have you been stopped by the police for a DUI? Or you are worried you might be? Immigration attorney, Andres Mejer, tells you exactly what you should and should NOT do as an immigrant being stopped by the police.

Transcript (Transcripción):

Andres Mejer :If you’re here illegally, don’t answer any questions about your immigration status. Now officers are not supposed to ask, but you and I both know some do it anyway. Now immigration consequences. If you have a nonimmigrant visa or you have a green card or applying for a green card, the two year conditional green card or we are renewing your green card or you want apply for citizenship, you visa and removal. Let’s talk about how a DUI can ruin your immigrant life.

Andres Mejer :To have immigration consequences. You first have to be convicted and the rest is just that an arrest. The state has to prove each of the three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Remember operating a motorized vehicle in a public road while under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s your attorney’s job to find that, that’s it. In the U.S., you’re considered innocent until proven guilty, even if you’re an immigrant. You have the same rights as I do. However, if you are arrested and you brought to a county jail, even if it’s just for a few hours, ICE could very well be there. ICE is in Monmouth County and Cape May still today. Most other county jails in New Jersey, they’re not. But every state is different. If your interviewed by ICE, you will likely be put in removal proceedings. You will be detained and you’ll be transferred from whatever county jail you are to Essex County Jail or to Elizabeth. Detention center. One of those two goes to locations where ICE has detained immigrants today in New Jersey. Now, you gotta remember, it is incredibly difficult to get bonded out of jail to day. Most immigrants, in fact, are in getting bonded out. Immigration judges are deciding that the immigrants are a danger to the community just because they’re accused of a crime. So this results in more deportations because immigrants don’t want to wait in jail for months or they can’t put together a good defense when they’re in jail. They need to get out in order to work to pay the attorney or to gather documents to prove their case. Sometimes if they don’t have a lot of if they don’t have family, how are they going to do that? It’s very difficult for them. You need help and sometimes you don’t have it. If you’re detained. So the problem is, if you’re accused of a crime and you find yourself in removal proceedings, often your immigration case is going to get adjudicated faster than your criminal case. It’s crazy. I know that’s life today in 2020. Now, why would you be in a county jail which is usually reserved for serious crimes when you’re arrested for a DUI? That New Jersey considers a traffic offense? Now simple. You have prior history, you have prior crimes or you’re accused of DUI and crimes, for example, resisting arrest, giving fake documents. You know, that license that you’ve got is a joke because you’re under 21. Guess what also doesn’t find so funny? You lied to the officer about your real name. Yeah. They think you’re smart. You over. What’s your name? Juan Gonzalez. Okay. What if. How are you? And then they go and ask your girlfriend. And they ask her, what’s your name? And she says, Well, that’s Fernando Gonzalez. You just lied to the police officer. And you’re pissed. And they proved it. You’re screwed. Come on. But let’s say you did everything you should have. You don’t have any prior crimes. Well, you could have unpaid parking tickets. You could have unpaid child support. Or you could have had to appear somewhere and you didn’t. Or you can have an order of deportation. Any one of those reasons why you might be arrested? Now to have immigration consequences. It doesn’t matter how drunk you were. All that matters is you were drunk or under the influence. So New Jersey first offense. It actually makes a difference. The level of alcohol that you have in your blood. Measured. Point 0 8 to point 10. That’s called the Tier 1 offense. Point ten to point 15. A Tier 2 offense. Point 15 it up. Point three at a tier 3 effect offense Now. Most attorneys will tell you hey I got you from a tier 3 to a tier 1, which means I start getting a twelve month loss of license. You get a three month loss of license. No, I know in December that that’s changed, but for purposes of conversation let’s assume it hasn’t changed yet. They’ll say it’s fantastic news. Look, if you’re an immigrant that’s not fantastic news, what do you care? Conviction is. The conviction, number one. Number two, if you don’t have a license. The fact that they suspended it for less time. It’s not going to help you? Don’t fall for it if you’re not a U.S. citizen. Do not plead guilty to any DUI.

Andres Mejer :Now look New Jersey. Implement the new sentencing guidelines in December. So just last month for your first DUI, you can now install an ignition lock device and not get your license suspended at all. But hey, that could be a great result. Maybe if you’re a U.S. citizen, I don’t think it’s a good result. You’re convicted of DUI. Your going to be paying out your nose for years. And it can. You can lose your. You could lose your. Well, you could still lose your CDL. You could lose security clearances. You could lose your job. Is a lot of problems with a conviction to a DUI. But for an immigrant, you’ve got all of those. Plus, you can be placed in good in removal proceedings. So call a good attorney before you plead guilty. Make sure you get your situation reviewed. Don’t do it now. Nonimmigrant visa. You could be inside the U.S. or outside the U.S., for example. You’re here as a student or you’re here as a as a tourist or you have an H1 B visa. So you could be in the U.S., be convicted. You could lose your job. You could lose your visa. I have a client from Virginia that was traveling to New Jersey, working there. His graduate degree student visa accused of a crime. USCIS automatically revoked his visa right away. Or it could be they don’t automatically revoke you leave the U.S.. Let’s say you’ve finished the school year. You go back to your home country for a summer vacation. You want to come back. Now, then, when you come back they fingerprint you, they find your conviction. They deny you entry and cancel your visa. So it doesn’t matter where the conviction happened, it could even happen in your own country if they discovered you. You’re a criminal. You have immigration consequences. Now, what if you add your Green Card applying for one? Doesn’t matter if you have a permanent green card or a two year green card or you’re applying to renew your green card, or you want to apply for your green card for the first time because of an employment petition. A family’s petition or humanitarian petition like Asylum, u visa or VAWA, if you have a Green Card any of those or are seeking it. One DUI by itself likely will not disqualify you. Obviously it doesn’t help you. It’s a negative factor, but one DUI by itself usually does not result in deportation and usually does not result in denial of your petition. It depends. It’s fact specific. However, like I explained a couple of weeks ago, Attorney General, that USCiS made a decision October 25th, 2019, and USCIS followed that. If you have two or more DUI’s, you are not a good and moral person. Every single petition you file has a requirement. You’re a good and moral person. So if you have two or more DUI, there’s a presumption you’re not a good guy and you don’t deserve this petition. You can rebut that with evidence. But now you’ve got to defend it. Now you have to explain it now. You know, instead of being in a positive light, they see you in a negative light. And now you’re starting from a deficit and trying to build back up.

Andres Mejer :So let’s look an example. Imagine you got your Green Card 1999. You were convicted of shoplifting, which is a crime of moral turpitude. Now. Immigration could have picked you up right then and then for whatever reason, they didn’t so you could leave the US and come back. Now you’re arriving alien and they find it. They put you in removal proceedings. Or imagine that didn’t happen either. But now you’re charged with a DUI. ICE. Now. You’re on the ICE radar. They find a prior conviction. They could pick you up at home, at court or at work or anywhere in between and put you in removal proceedings. And now you’ve got a problem because you have an old crime and a new one. So applying for a Green Card. Like I said, employment, family, humanitarian reasons like the conditional Green Card or renewal a single DUI doesn’t normally disqualify you to a more is a problem. But really it also matters when it happened. So let’s say you had to deal wise that they were both 15 or more years ago. You can show that you’re rehabilitated. Now what happens if you’re convicted 15 years ago and then convicted again two months ago? Well, it’s going to be a hard you gonna have a hard time showing here. We rehabilitate when you just committed the same crime again. That’s a big no no. And does it help you?

Andres Mejer :Now, what if you’re applying for us citizenship as well? Like a Green Card, you have to prove you good moral person. The government will look at it. Is there anything in your past that disqualifies you? So look you’re convicted of killing someone, you’re screwed. No one can help you in that scenario. You’re going to be removed and you you’re going to be deported. But what happens if it wasn’t so significant back then? But it is now? Again, you could very well have a problem. But the biggest difference between citizenship and the Green Card process is what’s called the look back period. So if there isn’t something in your past that automatically disqualifies you and it will result in your removal, they’ll say are you a good moral person? So for sinister purposes, there’s a look back period of three years or five years. Which do you say? Well, if you got your Green Card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, the look back period is three years. So from the date I file, they will look back three years. If you got your Green Card any other way. So employment based. Your parents applied for you, asylum, u visa, investor visa. Doesn’t matter how. That means immigration. You look back at the past five years and see is there something that makes you a not a good moral person? A single DUI during the three or five year look back period could result in a denial. It depends on the circumstances. Two or more. You got a problem. Make sure you discuss it with a good immigration attorney before filing that. Otherwise, you might just be wasting your time.

Andres Mejer :So if you have any questions, give us a call. Subscribe to our channel. We’re here for you. Thank you very much.I’m Andres Mejer, until next to.