From 2011 through 2016, DWI convictions resulted in 291 deportations from New Jersey. Since 2016, those numbers have been rising. If you’re an immigrant in New Jersey, and if you’ve been charged or convicted for driving while intoxicated (DWI), here’s what you need to know.
DWI is not considered a “criminal” charge in New Jersey – it’s a “traffic” charge – but if you are an immigrant, you can still be deported after a DWI conviction. It doesn’t matter if you’re here on a visa, if you hold a green card, if you’re a “Dreamer,” or if you have no legal status at all.
The legal grounds for deportation are spelled out in the federal Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which defines DWI in every state as a “crime of moral turpitude.”
NEW JERSEY MAY NOT PROTECT YOU FROM IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT
A DWI conviction makes an immigrant subject to deportation. Aggravating circumstances – like causing an accident or injuring someone – make deportation even more likely. If you are charged with DWI, you’ll need help from a New Jersey DWI defense attorney to avoid a conviction.
Even though New Jersey law enforcement agencies have been ordered not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, immigration officials have access to New Jersey arrest records, and they know about DWI arrests and convictions when they happen.
In 2017, New Jersey’s Attorney General imposed limits on the ability of local police to assist federal immigration officials. However, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has continued to detain – and deport – immigrants in New Jersey for offenses like DWI.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN TO IMMIGRANTS CONVICTED OF DWI IN NEW JERSEY?
In April 2019, for instance, 123 people in New Jersey were detained by immigration authorities based on their prior arrests and convictions. Those with removal orders were deported immediately; the others were held in an ICE detention center pending their immigration hearings.
The rules for admissibility into the U.S. and for deportation from the U.S. are different, so if you are not deported for DWI, you may face other consequences. Even if you have a green card, you could be deemed inadmissible if you leave the U.S. after a DWI conviction and then try to return.
Moreover, deportation and inadmissibility are not the only possible consequences of a DWI conviction for an immigrant. If you are a green card holder who is seeking U.S. citizenship, a DWI conviction could put your naturalization process on hold – possibly for many years.
WHAT’S THE BEST STRATEGY IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH DWI?
Fighting a driving while intoxicated charge is the best way to avoid facing immigration consequences. If you are legally in the U.S. and you have the documents to prove it, a not guilty verdict or the dismissal of a DWI charge probably will not trigger immigration consequences.
How can you offer an effective defense and get a not guilty verdict or a dismissal of a DWI charge?
For more than fifteen years, New Jersey criminal defense attorney Steven W. Hernandez has represented immigrants charged with DWI in New Jersey. His book, “New Jersey DWI Defense, the Law & Practice” is used by DWI lawyers throughout the state.
You should not have to be deported simply because you made one mistake. Attorney Steven W. Hernandez can develop a strategy for your defense and bring your DWI case to its best possible conclusion. He wrote the book on DWI, and he’s ready to work for you.