Non-citizens in Texas know that encounters with law enforcement can be dangerous because criminal charges often carry the possible risk of deportation. If you’re an immigrant living in Texas and you’ve been arrested on suspicion of DWI, know that while deportation is a possibility, it isn’t a sure thing. Your previous criminal history, prior convictions, and the circumstances of your arrest will determine whether you will face immigration roadblocks or deportation in the future.
If you’ve been arrested, don’t panic. Contact Dallas DWI attorney William “RJ” Harber to discuss your rights and your legal options. He will work hard to minimize the impact the charges will have on your life. Schedule a confidential consultation with Attorney Harber by calling (214) 389-1189 today.
DWI Crimes in Texas Involving Possible Deportation
A person’s first DWI arrest in Texas is generally a Class B misdemeanor when there are no aggravating factors involved. A second DWI arrest and first arrests involving blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of 0.15 or more are a Class A misdemeanor. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) generally lets green card-holders remain in the United States after misdemeanor convictions if they satisfy all requirements imposed by the court.
A DWI arrest resulting in felony charges becomes a possible deportation risk for immigrants because felony offenses are considered crimes of moral turpitude. DWI is a felony in Texas when it is an alleged offender’s third or subsequent DWI offense. A DWI is also a state jail felony when an alleged offender had a passenger who was younger than 15 years of age.
Another common reason for felony DWI charges is drunk driving accidents. A person who causes an accident resulting in serious bodily injury will be charged with the third-degree felony of intoxication assault while an immigrant who causes a fatal DWI accident will be charged with second-degree felony of intoxication manslaughter.
DWI offenses stemming from illegal or prescription drugs are also crimes of moral turpitude. So-called “drugged driving” cases can be far more difficult for prosecutors to obtain convictions because proof of intoxication often comes in the form of urine tests, which may indicate drugs in a person’s system but do not necessarily demonstrate the drugs were active at the time of the alleged offense.
Based on the above, a green card holder could be subject to deportation after a DWI offense if they:
- Were driving on a revoked or suspended license
- The DWI offense was drug-related
- There was a child 15 years of age or younger in the vehicle
- The offense was the driver’s 3rdDWI offense
- The accused was previously convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude”
- The DWI resulted in bodily injury or death
DWI Penalties in Texas
The possible sentences imposed for DWI convictions depend on numerous factors. In general, the statutory maximum sentences allowable are as follows:
- Class B Misdemeanor — Up to 180 days in jail and/or fine of up to $2,000
- Class A Misdemeanor — Up to one year in jail and/or fine of up to $4,000
- State Jail Felony — Up to two years in state jail and/or fine of up to $10,000
- Third-Degree Felony — Up to 10 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000
- Second-Degree Felony — Up to 20 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000
A DWI conviction could become a part of your permanent criminal record. The criminal record could prevent an immigrant from getting a citizenship application approved, extending a visa, or even finding a job.
DWI convictions also carry possible penalties relating to the suspension of your driver’s license. Most first offenses are punishable by suspensions of up to 365 days, but other crimes may result in a suspension of up to two years.
Impact of Current Political Climate on DWI Charges for Immigrants
The greater emphasis recently placed on unlawful immigrants by President Donald Trump has understandably created a lot of concern among immigrants about the possible implications of any criminal charges. While many first-time offenses did not used to be tremendous causes of concern, there are definitely some reasons for concern.
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it will detain “removable aliens” for any criminal conviction, any unresolved criminal charges, or the commission of any chargeable criminal offense. ICE has also authorized the removal of any person that an immigration officer believes poses a risk to public safety.
In many cases, the immigrant’s best bet to avoid deportation can hinge on avoiding a conviction in their DWI case. You will want to make sure that you are being represented by an experienced DWI defense lawyer so you can have the best chance of avoiding any possible deportation risks.
How Can A DWI Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
You need to understand that being arrested for DWI is not the same as being convicted. All alleged offenders are entitled to a presumption of innocence when they enter court, and it is the burden of a prosecutor to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Law Office of RJ Harber handles all kinds of DWI cases in Dallas and surrounding communities in Tarrant County. Our firm can work to help you achieve the most favorable possible outcome to your case.
Police officers may commit any number of errors in their handling of a DWI case that could dramatically affect the evidence that is admitted and, thus, the strength of the criminal charges against you. The Law Office of RJ Harber knows how to identify mistakes made during the administration of breath tests or in the maintenance of breath testing devices.
Some cases could also involve police officers not having probable cause for the initial traffic stops for the DWI arrests. In other cases, the observations of an officer in a police report may not match the behavior exhibited in dashboard video.
If you or your loved one is an immigrant who was recently arrested for an alleged DWI offense in the greater Dallas area, it will be critical for you to not delay in getting yourself legal representation. Make sure you speak to the Law Office of RJ Harber about your case for help understanding all of your options.
RJ Harber has experience handling these types of cases on both sides of the aisle as a former prosecutor in Tarrant County, so he provides a first-hand understanding of the types of issues that can make DWI cases more difficult for a prosecutor. You can have him review your case and answer all of your legal questions as soon as you call (214) 389-1189 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation.