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DUI's, DWI's and Criminal Convictions

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DUIs, DWIs & Crimes of Moral Turpitude May Make You Inadmissible to the US

The 212(a)(2) Criminal Grounds of Inadmissibility, unless waived, could permanently bar immigration to America. Whether or not a ground is waivable depends on the type of visa the foreign national is seeking, and, for certain hardship waivers, whether there is a qualifying relative. Crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT) and conviction of multiple offenses are the major non-drug related grounds used to deny immigration benefits to foreign nationals.

Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

A person who has been convicted of, or admits to having committed the essential elements of, a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) is inadmissible to the United States. Unfortunately, there is no definition or list of crimes that constitute a CIMT. Any criminal conviction must be analyzed on it own.

Some courts have described a CIMT something base, vile and depraved or where the actor has evil intent or a corrupt mind.

Many times whether a crime constitutes a CIMT depends on the actor’s intent; for example:

  • fraud,
  • some theft
  • some crimes of violence (assault with a deadly weapon,murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, statutory rape, prostitution, and possession or child pornography)
  • When the assault resulted in physical injury to a spouse or child, certain courts have upheld CIMT findings.
  • arson,
  • embezzlement,
  • bribery,
  • counterfeiting,
  • mail fraud,
  • perjury

DUIs and DWIs

A simple charge of DUI or DWI (driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated) is likely not a CIMT as these crimes do not typically require intent. However, some courts have upheld application of the CIMT ground of inadmissibility for multiple DUI’s, where the DUI was accompanied by another behavior that did have the required intent or disregard for the safety of others, or where there serious bodily injury resulted.

For instance, a DUI conviction where the driver was also driving on a suspended license could be a CIMT; this charge could be considered an aggravated DUI or felony DUI. See Matter of Lopez-Meza (BIA held that a conviction under Arizona law for aggravated DUI – driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol while knowingly under a suspended, canceled, revoked or restricted licenses- was a CIMT).

There are some limited exceptions to the CIMT ground of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2). First, a child who is charged with a crime involving moral turpitude and is kept in the juvenile system will not have a CIMT for immigration purposes.

Also, those who have committed a crime involving moral turpitude while under eighteen years of age and were released from prison at least five years prior to applying for the immigration benefit sought will not be inadmissible.

Finally, each individual is allowed one "petty offense" exception with regard to crimes involving moral turpitude. To qualify, the maximum possible sentence under the state or federal charging statute must have been one year or less and the actual sentence imposed (regardless of time served) must have been no more than six months.

Most applicants who are found inadmissible due to a CIMT may be eligible for a waiver of this ground of inadmissiblity.

Two or More Convictions

Applicants for admission to the United States can also trigger one of the grounds of inadmissibility if he or she has more than one criminal conviction, the combined sentences of which were confinement for five or more years. See, INA 212(a)(2)(B). Unlike for crimes involving moral turpitude, 212(a)(2)(B) inadmissibility requires at least two actual convictions, however the crimes can have been committed during the same criminal scheme. Simply admitting to having satisfied the elements of the crime is not enough to bar admission under this provision.

Most applicants who are found inadmissible due to two or more crimes may be eligible for a waiver of this ground of inadmissiblity.Type your paragraph here.