Criminal Convictions and U.S. Citizenship

Published: 14th March 2011
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Considering about applyingfor citizenship, but have 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 necessities for U.S. citizenship is that a person be of "good moral character."

If an individual is condemned of certain crimes (no matter how long ago), they can be considered to be a person of bad moral character. Some citizenship applicants are lawfully more worried about their previous DUI conviction than qualifying for the citizenship test. However, convictions for simple DUI offenses in majority of states are mostly not regarded to show bad moral character because the driver did not plan 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 may possibly produce citizenship to be deprived of. Also, if the state law has words written in it that disallow driving drunk while a person's driver's license was suspended, it would be understandable that the person recognized they were not supposed to be driving and that would be bad moral character.

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

Take the state of California's drunk driving law for an example. California Vehicle Code section 23152 (a) is a plain driving under the influence law (a situation where no child was endangered). Conviction of California Vehicle Code section 23152 (a) necessitates that the driver was under the power of an intoxicating chemical and does not compel that the person was careless or nasty or had evil aim (reckless driving on its own doesn't count). As the California state law is written, there is no talk about of whether the driver's license was suspended, canceled, revoked, rejected or restricted as an outcome of a preceding DUI. Therefore, in California, having a DUI conviction does not prevent an individual from getting 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 true that driving under the influence carries the danger of automobile accidents. But laws against drunk driving are proposed to avoid injury to the driver and others. Many drunk driving arrests happen at a sobriety checkpoint or in other non-accident state. By its nature, simple drunk driving is frequently not believed a crime of violence (a crime of violence is a felony where intentional physical force is used against another person). When somebody uses physical force against another person by pushing or hitting him, it is obvious it is not an accident and that it was deliberate. When someone 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 simple 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 submit 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 corrupt 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 some states a person can ask that their probation be terminated early so that they are off probation by the time of their citizenship interview.

Many individuals with a DUI or DWI in their background may want to employ an Immigration Attorney who has experience with citizenship and DUI convictions to represent them in their citizenship case to get 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 rendered to see whether the individual is suitable for citizenship.

The U.S. Supreme Court can change 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 before filing the application for citizenship. Certain files pertaining to the DUI conviction should be rendered with the citizenship application, but others should not - and the Immigration Attorney knows which files to render .

In addition, people with a DUI or DWI may wish to appoint an Immigration Attorney to go with them to the citizenship interview, as the interviewing Officer will be asking some strong queries 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 isrelevant to the person's present moral conduct. The individual should own up responsibility for the DUI conviction and be ready to clarify verbally and through files (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 questions asked about the DUI incident itself.

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

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