DUI: Does Drunk Driving Mean Deportation?
By: Mike Stetzer
A DUI conviction can be life changing. Whether it means loss of driving privileges or jail, or even conviction of other crimes, those who have been arrested for DUI and are facing a conviction should enlist the help of a DUI attorney to understand their options.
One aspect of DUI that many drivers may not have considered is deportation. A criminal conviction may lead to deportation of both legal and illegal immigrants to the United States. Most crimes that entail deportation are violent crimes, called "aggravated felonies," but some state DUI laws may be interpreted so that in certain circumstances a DUI conviction may also lead to deportation.
Several recent cases demonstrate how prosecutors and law enforcement authorities have been dealing with DUI convictions for illegal immigrants. And, as talks in Washington about large-scale changes to immigration policy continue on, various state legislators have been considering or enacting measures to revise the deportation process for immigrants who are convicted of various crimes, including drunk driving.
Immigrant in Tulsa Arrested for Hitting Child While DUI
In many cases, having a run-in with law enforcement will allow immigration authorities to be alerted to a particular person's status. In the case of illegal immigrants, if they cannot show a proper visa or green card, that means when their criminal or civil proceedings are completed, they will be deported.
23-year-old Darbin Alejoz-Ramirez was arrested for DUI in Oklahoma after Tulsa police say he struck a child with a car. Upon arrest, Alejoz-Ramirez admitted to police that he is an illegal immigrant from Mexico, and so an immigration hold was placed on him. An immigration hold means that when his criminal proceedings for the current charges are either dismissed or he finishes serving his time if convicted, he will be transferred to an immigration detention center to await deportation. Alejoz-Ramirez was arrested for driving under the influence and causing an injury collision, driving with no driver's license, having no proof of insurance and injury to a minor child. The 5-year-old boy whom Alejoz-Ramirez hit was taken to the hospital in serious condition, but he has since improved.
Suspected Illegal Immigrant Held for DUI and Death in Tennessee
In Nashville, Tennessee, police arrested Lorenzo Hernandez Santiz, who was involved in a deadly automobile accident that occurred on an interstate ramp. Police and local news reports indicated that Santiz was speeding and driving drunk when he flipped his vehicle, resulting in the death of a passenger. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Santiz has been in trouble. Police records indicate that Santiz has been arrested three times in the past year, for charges of unlawful gun possession, DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, escape, driving without a license and criminal impersonation. According to reports, police currently believe that Santiz is an illegal immigrant from Mexico and have put an immigration hold on him.
In both of these cases, the DUI charges had additional aggravated charges with them, and so law enforcement authorities could deport the DUI offenders even if they are found to be in the United States legally.
Mississippi Illegal Immigrant Held After DUI Crash
Alexander Garcia Contreras, of Oaxaca, Mexico, crashed his vehicle containing two passengers into an office building in Gulfport, Mississippi. He was arrested for DUI and other misdemeanors, and his two passengers were arrested for public drunkenness and leaving the scene of the accident. The police took the three men into custody, and discovered that all three men were illegal immigrants while they were being booked and before they could post bond. Police then transferred the men to a holding center for illegal immigrants to await trial.
Law Enforcement Agencies Crack Down on Illegal Immigrant DUI Offenders and Criminals!
With all of the heated discussion going on between lawmakers in Washington, state legislatures are also discussing legislative steps to be taken to more effectively identify and deport illegal immigrants. Legislators in Virginia, Tennessee and Oregon are all implementing or discussing the use of new measures to handle illegal immigrants who are arrested for DUI and other crimes.
Oregon Law Officers Vow to Check Immigration Status of DUI Offenders
Oregon law enforcement authorities have been more vigilant about checking the immigration status of foreign-born DUI offenders after the killing of 15-year-old Dani Countryman by two illegal immigrants at her apartment in Portland. What's the connection?
Police found out that one of the men, Alejandro Rivera Gamboa, was convicted of DUI last year, yet his immigration status was not noticed during the arrest. Their reasoning is that if they had been more careful with making sure they checked his status with immigration services, that he may have been in holding or deported instead of committing the tragic murder of the teenager.
Moving forward, Oregon as a state has decided to follow a stricter policy of checking names of foreign-born criminals with immigration services to possibly avoid a similar situation in the future.
Their efforts are showing fast results. According to news reports , 62 non-U.S. citizens were reported to immigration in approximately 700 DUI cases in the month of September. Ten of these immigrants were found to be illegal and are currently facing deportation.
Virginia Throws Out Plan for Separate Prison for Illegal Immigrants
Virginia state lawmakers recently struck down a proposal to build a separate detention center for illegal immigrants who are convicted of lesser crimes and waiting trial or deportation. Viewing that decision as too extreme, the panel instead approved more money for expanding county facilities to accommodate more prisoners, including illegal immigrants, rather than creating a separate facility.
The problem that faced the panel was the disappearance of illegal immigrants who have committed a lesser crime, such as DUI and domestic violence, who are released after serving their short sentences and cannot be held to wait for deportation. Opponents suggested that the concept of a separate facility sounded too close to a "concentration camp."
Tennessee Counties to Tape Into Database to Solve Immigration Dilemma
Bedford County, along with several other counties in Tennessee, is considering participating in a federal program that will allow easier identification and deportation of illegal immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security currently has a program passed under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996 that grants local law enforcement agencies full federal authority to enforce immigration laws.
One major problem currently facing Tennessee law officers and those across the country is that immigrants from Mexico often have four names, according to family tradition. If an immigrant is arrested, he or she may give the officer a different name, or the officer may misunderstand and report a different name. This miscommunication can result in an additional charge of criminal impersonation, something that law enforcement officials are trying to avoid.
The program would basically allow officers to access federal records for immigration themselves. But cost will be an issue in any kind of implementation. More funds will be required in order to hire extra officers, and the city will have to hire an interpreter for non-English speakers. Of course, space is key. A federal booking takes from up to 2 to 4 hours, meaning extra jail space would be needed for holding during the process.