Facing a felony DWI charge in Texas can be stressful for anyone. The consequences can include jail time and stiff fines. But if you are an immigrant in the U.S., the situation can be harrowing. You're undoubtedly concerned about how an arrest or a conviction for a felony can affect your immigration status. That's why you need an expert in DWI, well-versed in handling complex DWI cases in Texas, by your side.
While a first DWI in Texas is usually a Class B misdemeanor, if there are aggravating circumstances or this isn't your first DWI charge, you could face felony DWI charges. A DWI with a child under 15 in the car, a DWI accident that seriously injures or kills someone, or a third or subsequent DWI will be a felony charge. As an immigrant, this can be a serious problem for you. Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, crimes of “moral turpitude,” including felony convictions, can affect your immigration status.
Felony DWI and Immigration Status
A felony conviction can have three possible effects on your immigration status. You could face:
- Denial of admissibility into the U.S., or
- Denial of citizenship
Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, whether a crime affects your immigration status depends on whether the crime involves “moral turpitude.” These crimes are contrary to the “rules of morality,” violate the duties people owe to one another, involve criminal intent, or are depraved. Felony convictions are considered crimes of moral turpitude.
Deportation after a Felony DWI
Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, you may face deportation for certain crimes. While many deportable crimes involve violence or human trafficking, aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude are also included. If you're convicted of two or more crimes of “moral turpitude” or a crime punishable by a year or more within five or ten years of your entry into the U.S., you could face deportation. See 8 U.S.C. §1227(2)(A)(i),(ii) (2008).
Denial of Admissibility into the U.S. after a Felony DWI
Deportation isn't the only possible consequence after a felony DWI conviction. Your felony DWI conviction could also render you “inadmissible” to the U.S. The application to enter the U.S. under section 212 of the INA defines whether you can obtain a green card and are “admissible” as a lawful permanent resident. This inadmissibility doesn't just mean that you can't legally enter the U.S. “Admissible” also refers to whether you are eligible to change your immigration or permanent resident status while you're in the U.S. Inadmissibility can also keep you out of the U.S. if you are a legal resident traveling outside of the U.S. and then attempting to reenter the country. See 8 U.S.C. § 1182(2)(A)(i) (2008).
Denial of Citizenship after a Felony DWI
A felony DWI can affect your immigration status through the naturalization process or under the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or DACA.
- Naturalization and Citizenship Applicants for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process must show that they are of “good moral character.” Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, crimes of moral turpitude, including felony convictions, can conditionally bar you from establishing good moral character. This includes convictions for a felony DWI and two or more convictions for DWIs, even if they are misdemeanor convictions.
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals About ten years ago, the U.S. implemented a new policy for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” policy (DACA) created a deferred status that allowed DACA registrants to seek employment, attend school, get a driver's license, and work towards citizenship rather than face undocumented status and possible deportation. If you're registered under DACA, you must reregister each year and meet all the statutory requirements. A criminal crime for a felony DWI is likely to result in immigration officials revoking your DACA status. The DACA guidelines include six types of offenses that are always significant, including a DWI, even if your conviction doesn't result in jail time. Moreover, the government broadly defines a “conviction.” In some cases, the government could even consider some deferred adjudication programs or plea bargains to be enough of an admission of guilt to qualify as “convictions” to revoke your DACA status.
You can face serious repercussions to your immigration status with a felony DWI conviction. That's why it's so important to hire an expert in DWI law who understand how it can affect your immigration status as soon as possible.
You Need an Aggressive, Expert in DWI Defense
If you're an immigrant facing a felony DWI charge, you need an aggressive defense as soon as possible. Attorney Doug Murphy holds a Criminal Law Certification from the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and a DWI Board Certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Doug is one of only two attorneys in Texas holding both of these legal certifications, making him uniquely qualified to handle complex felony DWI cases.
Doug is also well-regarded by his peers in the Houston legal community. Recently, U.S. News and World Report named Doug Murphy Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in America for Houston DWI defense for 2023. Doug earned this recognition through the nominations and votes of his fellow Houston attorneys. Doug also served as President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, served as co-chair of the DWI Committee for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and two terms on the board of directors. Doug also serves as the Dean of the National College for DUI Defense held at Harvard Law School.
Doug and his team at the Doug Murphy Law Firm have extensive experience in both criminal defense and prosecution. So, they're uniquely qualified to prepare for anything in the courtroom and negotiate with prosecutors. If you're facing a felony DWI charge in Texas, they can help. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm at 713-229-8333 or contact him online.