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DACA and DUI: Bad Combination

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

One of the easiest ways anyone can get in trouble with the law is driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

DUI charges can be especially devastating for green card holders, and even more so for young immigrants with DACA.

Why is it so bad for DACA recipients?

USCIS won’t approve the DACA application of a person with:

  • A felony offense;
  • A significant misdemeanor offense; or
  • Three or more other misdemeanor offenses not occurring on the same date and not arising out of the same act, omission, or scheme of misconduct.

There are two important factors affecting DACA applicants:

1. The term “significant misdemeanor” is a high standard, particularly when it comes to the DACA directive. It is defined as “a local, state or federal criminal offense that carries a jail term ranging from five days to one year, pertaining to the distribution or trafficking of drugs, domestic violence, sexual exploitation or abuse, burglary, unlawful possession of a firearm or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” Moreover, any other type of misdemeanor in which the individual actually received a jail sentence of 90 days or more is defined as a significant misdemeanor. Even one misdemeanor conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can kill a young immigrant’s dreams.

2. The “discretionary relief” nature of the DACA process is uncertain. The approval of applications and renewals are done at the discretion of immigration authorities, and there is no appeal of the decision or the opportunity to file a motion to reopen or reconsider an application.

There are stories of DACA recipients charged with DUI who have been able to get their DACA renewal, but only after they have been represented by a great immigration lawyer with knowledge of criminal law.

You can bet that these cases are expensive, and there is no guarantee that they can be solved favorably for the immigrant. Our advice is: Do not drink and drive!

As always, Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund recommends you seek the advice of an expert lawyer.

Please read 10 questions you should ask a lawyer before hiring one.