If you are not a United States citizen, a criminal conviction can lead to consequences that, for some, may even outweigh the severity of any criminal penalties that ensue. Convictions for some types of crimes can serve as grounds for removal and denial of applications.
The Immigration and Nationality Act lists some specific crimes that can result in deportation. It also provides a more nebulous category of crimes of moral turpitude that have the same consequences. Further, a conviction for a serious crime is another way criminal charges can lead to removal.
Crimes of moral turpitude
Basically, a crime of moral turpitude is assumed to show that the person who committed it is of bad character. Generally, courts have deemed that this category includes crimes that involve the intent to physically harm a person or to defraud. Whether a particular crime qualifies can depend a great deal on the wording of the statute and the particular type of intent it includes.
Typically, a DUI does not usually qualify as a crime of moral turpitude, as most varieties of DUI charges do not necessitate an intent to cause harm, even if harm does actually result. However, a DUI charge can constitute a serious crime.
Generally, a felony is considered a serious crime. Repeat convictions or aggravated misdemeanors may also fall into this category. A DUI is more likely to be a serious crime if there are prior convictions or aggravating factors such as injury to a person or extreme speeding.
For immigration purposes, conviction can mean something other than hearing a guilty verdict after trial. Many types of plea bargains require a defendant to admit to committing the crime and are deemed a qualifying conviction. Deferred adjudication and alternative proceedings such as drug court also have the potential of triggering immigration consequences. Thus, even a seemingly favorable deal can end up costing you your immigration status.