The United States has some of the best universities and colleges around. Every year students from all over the world come to study at these prestigious academic institutions. In order for students from other countries to study at an American school, they must first obtain a student visa. According to the U.S. Department of State, there were 677,928 student visas issued in 2015.
Something important to keep in mind while in the U.S. on a student visa is that if you get in trouble with the law, you could face both criminal and immigration penalties. One way that you may find yourself facing criminal charges is by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This charge is commonly called a DUI, though the name varies from state to state. In general, the United States has strict DUI laws. How strict the law is depends on the state. For example, in Washington, DUI is defined under RCW 46.61.502 and is categorized as a gross misdemeanor, but can be a felony under certain circumstances. The punishment for a gross misdemeanor DUI can include jail time, electronic home monitoring, fines, and the suspension of the defendant's driver's license, among other things.
The immigration consequences for a DUI conviction depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. A criminal conviction could affect future citizenship applications, result in the delay or denial of a visa, or even result in deportation. Thus, in addition to contacting a criminal defense attorney to assist you with the criminal charges, it is important to discuss your case with an immigration attorney to learn if there could be any immigration consequences as well.
Deportation is a severe consequence of a criminal conviction. What cases may result in a non-citizen being deported depends on what happened in the case. The Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") states what type of criminal convictions can result in deportation. These crimes include, but are not limited to: crimes of moral turpitude, multiple criminal convictions, aggravated felonies, crimes where a "sentence of one year or longer may be imposed," and crimes relating to a controlled substance.
Some of these terms are ambiguous on first glance. For example, what exactly is a crime of moral turpitude? It is not clearly defined under the INA. In the Matter of Lopez-Meza, a 1999 Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") decision, the BIA describes it as a "nebulous concept." In Lopez-Meza, the Board states that crimes of moral turpitude "refers generally to conduct that is inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general." Yet even with the uncertainty, the term survived scrutiny by the Supreme Court in the case of Jordan v. De George, 341 U.S. 223 (1951).
As you can see, immigration issues can be quite complex. If you are facing criminal charges and you are not a U.S. citizen it is important to contact an immigration attorney to discuss any consequences that could arise from your case. In addition, contacting an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights in your criminal case.