Immigration Consequences of an OWI/DUI/DWI Conviction
At present, an OWI is not a deportable offense. This means that if you are present in the USA in lawful status (valid visa with a valid I-94 or another immigrant status), you will not be deported because you drink and drive, not even for multiple OWIs. Nonetheless, there are severe immigration consequences for OWI convictions. Among them are:
An OWI conviction may prejudice your chances of an immigration bond if detained. In Chicago, most immigration judges will deny bond for aliens with 3 OWI convictions because they are considered a danger to the public. Even with one OWI, you should expect a higher bond of $7,500 to $15,000. Even though an immigration judge has the power to reduce the bond amount, they often will not exercise it if they consider the non-citizen a danger to the community.
An OWI conviction can ruin your chances of discretionary relief from deportation. For instance, if you are an undocumented alien, you’re removed from the USA regardless of your criminal history. However, you may be eligible for cancellation of removal from deportation although you entered illegally if you have been living in the USA for ten years (consecutively), have family ties here and your deportation will cause exceptional hardship to your family members. For someone with two or three OWIs, this may be enough for the Immigration judge to exercise adverse discretion in your case.
An OWI conviction — coupled with DWLS (driving with license suspended) — can make your client removable. A few courts have held that OWI “Plus” (plus some aggravating factor) can turn that OWI into a “crime involving moral turpitude.” A crime involving moral turpitude is one that involves bad intent. A standalone OWI is a crime of recklessness, where bad intent need not be present. But, when your license is suspended due to a prior OWI, and you’re later arrested for OWI, then some immigration judges may be inclined to presume bad intent: you intentionally decided to drive even though your license is suspended. Moreover, there are some cases where an OWI “Plus” can — in and of itself — render a non-citizen removable from the United States.
An OWI conviction may hurt your chances at prosecutorial discretion. ICE counsel has discretion not to deport an individual based on positive factors. This may include family ties, employment history, criminal record, long presence in the USA, etc. But a negative factor like an OWI may hurt your chances at a prosecutorial discretion request.
In conclusion, OWI is not currently listed as a crime of inadmissibility or deportability. But an OWI conviction, if recent, can have severe immigration consequences for aliens.