Massachusetts takes operating under the influence (OUI) crimes very seriously. If you get convicted of drunk or drugged driving in Massachusetts, you could face penalties such as expensive fines and mandatory jail time. If you are an immigrant living in Massachusetts – either documented or undocumented – you could also face the risk of deportation, depending on the circumstances. This is why it is crucial to consult with a Middlesex County OUI attorney as soon as possible if you are in this situation.
An aggravated drunk driving conviction can result in deportation for someone who is not a citizen of the United States if it is viewed as a “crime of moral turpitude.” This is any crime that results in a sentence of one year or longer. Although a standard operating under the influence conviction is usually not viewed as a crime of moral turpitude for immigration purposes, the OUI may meet this definition if it has aggravating factors, such as a drunk driver who causes a permanent injury or death in a car accident. Being convicted of a crime of moral turpitude within five years of entering the U.S. (or two or more after five years) can result in deportation.
Under Massachusetts law, an aggravated operating under the influence crime is one with factors that make the crime more dangerous or harmful to others. Common examples include drunk driving that involves serious bodily injury or death, OUI with a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle, and a blood alcohol content at or above .20 percent. An aggravated drunk driving crime comes with enhanced penalties, such as higher fines, more time in jail or prison, and a revoked driver’s license.
An aggravated OUI is a felony in Massachusetts, not a misdemeanor. This distinction is why an aggravated drunk driving conviction can result in deportation for a noncitizen. Under federal immigration law, aggravated felonies make any noncitizen of the United States deportable. Note, however, that the federal government’s definition of an aggravated felony does not necessarily match the state’s criminal laws.
The federal definition of an aggravated felony is found in Section 1101(a)(43) of the U.S. Code, with a list of example crimes. Although driving under the influence is not on this list, this type of crime may be viewed as an aggravated felony for immigration reasons in certain circumstances. If the federal government does see a drunk driving conviction as an aggravated felony, this can become a deportable crime.
Being forced to leave the country as a consequence of an aggravated drunk driving conviction can have an enormous impact on you and your family. Even as a permanent documented resident living in the U.S., your immigration benefits could be removed, and you could be blacklisted – not allowed to reenter the U.S. – for many years. This is why it is imperative to contact an OUI defense attorney in Massachusetts immediately after being arrested for operating under the influence as an immigrant.
The best chance of avoiding deportation as someone being charged with an aggravated drunk driving crime is to fight the OUI charges against you. If a criminal defense lawyer can successfully convince the courts to drop the charges against you or dismiss the case, you can avoid a conviction and related deportation. Even arguing the charges against you down to a standard OUI or wet reckless could be enough to safeguard you from immigration penalties.
An experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney will work tirelessly to protect you from deportation as someone facing an OUI charge in Massachusetts. This could make all the difference to your future. If you or a loved one has recently been arrested for an alleged drunk driving crime in Massachusetts and wish to find out how this may impact your status as an immigrant in the United States, please contact Spring & Spring. We offer free consultations.