If you are a foreign-born person in the United States legally, what happens to you if you break the law in Georgia? Depending on the circumstances, you could be deported. However, if convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, you may be able to stay in the U.S.—the first time.
DUI and deportation
The rules for immigrants who are in the state of Georgia illegally are much tougher than they are for those who have a green card or a work permit. Deportation of illegal immigrants is likely if they have a first-time DUI conviction. The procedure is different for legal immigrants. They can remain in the country after two convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, because first and second offenses are misdemeanors. On the third conviction, the misdemeanor becomes a felony, and a felony is what it takes for a legal immigrant to be deported.
News reporters researching immigration arrests in both Cobb and Gwinnett Counties found multiple cases pertaining to DUI offenders. However, because limited information on immigration records exists, it was not clear whether the offenders were in the United States legally, or whether some had been deported and returned only to be arrested for DUI again. Other counties may keep similar records in which information about DUI convictions and deportations is somewhat sketchy.
A complicated issue
Immigration is the subject of daily newscasts and newspaper articles in our country, but the ordinary lives of foreign-born people who reside and work in the United States are often downplayed. Many families simply want to obey our laws, do the right thing and live in peace. However, even the most responsible person sometimes makes a mistake, like driving after having had a drink or two. A DUI arrest for an American citizen can be very stressful; for an immigrant, it can be frightening. If you are here on a green card or work permit, you should explore your legal options. Chances are you will not have to leave the U.S. for a first offense, but it could be a different story if convicted of DUI for the third time.