If Texas lawmakers are strict about two things, it’s immigration laws and driving while intoxicated (DWI). It may surprise you to learn that a connection exists between DWI and deportation or immigration status in the state of Texas.
It’s imperative to discuss your case with an attorney immediately after a DWI charge as an immigrant in Texas. Otherwise, you could find yourself in serious legal trouble – including a measure known as an “immigrant hold.”
Texas DWI and driving under the influence (DUI) laws state that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or greater as a driver 21 years or older, 0.04% as a commercial driver, or any detectable percentage as a driver under the age of 21.
Breaking any of the states DWI or other substance-related laws could land you with hefty fines, jail time, and a suspended license. What’s important for immigrants to know, however, is that a DWI could also result in deportation. Immigrants with valid green cards or even lawful permanent residency could end up back in their origin countries due to Texas’ strict DWI and immigration laws.
If you’re an immigrant living in Texas who is facing a DWI charge, don’t panic or jump to conclusions. The odds are low that your DWI will result in deportation. Simple alcohol-related DWI convictions with no prior convictions rarely culminate in a removal order of an immigrant. The same is true if it’s your first-offense DWI that deals with a minor drug-related law, such as possession of a small amount of marijuana. Deportation authorities generally do not worry themselves with minor cases or those with clean prior records.
In the event that this DWI is your second substance-related offense, on the other hand, you might face immigration-related difficulties. Deportation is a possibility in the case of multiple drug- or alcohol-related criminal convictions. A DWI conviction will become part of your permanent record and may affect your immigration status. Your arrest docket and fingerprints will become part of a national registration database – something officials will reference every time you submit immigration-related applications.
A DWI conviction could impact processes such as renewing your green card, applying for a work or tourist visa, adjusting your immigration status, naturalization or entering the U.S. as a refugee. You may find that the U.S. denies your reentry or deports you back to your country of origin because of a DWI conviction. You may also face an “immigration hold,” or an order that means you can’t post bail. The station will transfer you to federal custody at the end of your term, at which time officials will review your immigration status.
Deportation isn’t a sure thing after a DWI charge or conviction in Texas. It is, however, a very real possibility. Your criminal history, prior convictions, immigration status, and other facts of the situation will determine whether or not deportation or other immigration roadblocks are in your future. Talk to a Houston criminal lawyer as soon as possible after a DWI charge if you’re an immigrant in Texas. Hiring a lawyer gives you a fighting chance of protecting your immigration status, even in the face of substance-related offenses.
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