If you’ve been charged with a DUI—or driving under the influence—in New Jersey, the unknown of what to expect next can be overwhelming—particularly for anyone immigrating into the country. What if this affects your current immigration status or a pending application? What can you do to defend yourself? Should you expect the worst-case scenario?
Though there may be challenges to navigating the process, it doesn’t necessarily mean losing everything you’ve worked so hard for. Understanding what to expect if you’re faced with a DUI can help alleviate some of that fear, as well as better prepare you for how to defend yourself. Let’s take a look at the penalties of a New Jersey DUI and how to navigate any immigration challenges that might arise.
Understanding a DUI charge vs. conviction in New Jersey
For most drivers in New Jersey, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08%, though it’s lower for truck drivers and commercial vehicle operators. In some situations, a person can be charged with a DUI with a BAC as low as .01% if they were deemed by law enforcement to be impaired behind the wheel. Additionally, drivers under the age of 21 can be charged with a DUI in New Jersey if they have even the tiniest amount of alcohol in their system.
Being arrested and charged with a DUI is not the same as actually being convicted in court. The arrest itself is likely not enough to warrant a review of your immigration case. A DUI conviction, on the other hand, is something you’ll be required to include on any future immigration applications.
Navigating immigration challenges in conjunction with DUI penalties in New Jersey
While every situation is unique, New Jersey DUI penalties differ greatly depending on how many prior offenses you’ve had, whether or not you’re underage, or if any other charges were tacked on to your DUI. In terms of immigration, potential challenges may vary depending on whether you’re already a US citizen or you haven’t yet started the application process.
In most cases, a first-time offense won’t have an impact on your immigration status—particularly if you’re already a citizen. If you’re convicted of a DUI before you apply, you’ll need to include that information on your application. It’s important to keep in mind that if your application is up for renewal, you’ll have to include any changes to your criminal history.
While a first offense may not have an effect on your immigration status, a second offense could be a little trickier to handle. A policy issued by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2019 expressed that two or more DUI convictions could negatively impact the “good moral character” required for immigration into the United States. If the incident involved other charges in addition to the DUI such as reckless driving, driving without a license, illegal drug use, driving under the influence with a child in the car, hit and run, or manslaughter, your application may be denied.
Get the support you need to navigate immigration challenges
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to your immigration status in conjunction with a DUI. Ultimately, it’s left to the discretion of the officer in charge of your case. If you’ve been charged with a DUI in New Jersey, it’s a good idea to reach out to an experienced attorney for help. Getting the support you need to successfully navigate potential immigration challenges that might arise after a DUI could be crucial in the outcome of your case.