If you are a foreign citizen living in Arizona, getting arrested for DUI could have significant consequences for your immigration status. Drunk driving convictions can trigger deportation (or “removal”) proceedings in many cases—and, if you get deported for a DUI, you could find it extremely difficult to return to the United States in the future.

With this in mind, if you are a non-U.S. citizen facing a DUI charge in Arizona, you must fight your charge by all means available. Even if your drunk driving arrest doesn’t trigger removal proceedings, it could still delay your path to U.S. citizenship—in addition to triggering all of the other consequences that DUIs carry under Arizona law.

What You Need to Know About Facing a DUI in Arizona as a Foreign Citizen

Here are some key considerations for foreign citizens who are facing DUI charges in Arizona:

1. Your Immigration Status Plays a Key Role in Determining the Risks You Are Facing

The first thing you need to know is that your immigration status plays a key role in determining the risks you are facing. Green card holders (lawful permanent residents), visa holders, and DACA recipients can all potentially face different immigration-related consequences following DUI arrests in Arizona. If you are unsure of your immigration status, figuring this out will be a key first step toward determining what is at stake in your DUI case.

What if you are an undocumented immigrant? While undocumented immigrants are entitled to many of the same protections as lawful permanent residents, visa holders, and DACA recipients in the United States, they are also subject to many of the same risks. A DUI conviction could lead to removal, and it could potentially prevent you from securing lawful entry in the future.

2. Your Specific DUI Charge Plays a Key Role As Well

There are multiple types of DUI charges under Arizona law, and the specific type of charge you are facing could have a major impact on the immigration-related consequences (if any) of your arrest. For example, most standard DUIs involving a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) just over the legal limit are misdemeanors in Arizona—and a single conviction for a misdemeanor DUI generally isn’t enough to warrant removal from the United States.

However, many DUIs are felony-level offenses in Arizona, and facing any DUI charge as a repeat offender can increase the likelihood of immigration-related consequences. Getting arrested for a drug-related DUI, causing a serious accident while driving under the influence, and various other factors can increase the risk of facing immigration-related consequences as well.

3. You Need to Know What is At Stake So You Can Make Informed Decisions

Understanding the potential consequences of your DUI arrest (both immigration-related and non-immigration-related) is critical for making informed decisions about your defense. Regardless of your immigration status, a DUI conviction in Arizona could result in jail time, fines, additional costs and surcharges, vehicle impounding, increased insurance premiums, mandatory alcohol education and treatment, and various other penalties. An experienced DUI defense lawyer will be able to help you understand all of the consequences you are facing so that you can give your case the time and attention it deserves.

4. You Have Defenses Available

Another important fact to understand is that you have defenses available—no matter what. At the very least, you can defend against your DUI charge by arguing that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But, in many cases, DUI defendants will be able to use other defense strategies as well. For example, depending on the facts of your case, an experienced defense lawyer may be able to help you fight your DUI by:

  • Challenging your breath test (BAC) results
  • Challenging your field sobriety test (FST) results
  • Challenging specific elements of the prosecution’s case (i.e., by arguing that you were using your car for “temporary shelter” rather than driving)
  • Showing that the police or prosecutors violated your constitutional rights (i.e., by racially profiling you, arresting you without probable cause, or failing to properly read your Miranda rights)

Determining which defenses you can assert (and need to assert) requires a thorough assessment of the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest. To determine how you can fight your DUI and fight to protect your immigration status, you should discuss your case with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.

5. It Is Up to You to Protect Yourself After a DUI Arrest in Arizona

While there are protections built into the U.S. criminal justice system, it is ultimately up to you to protect yourself after a DUI arrest in Arizona. If you ignore your case, there is an extremely high likelihood that the court will find you guilty in your absence. Missing your court date can also result in an additional charge for “failure to appear,” and this can increase the risk of facing immigration-related consequences as a result of your DUI arrest as well.

Protecting yourself starts with hiring an experienced DUI defense lawyer to represent you. A lawyer who is familiar with Arizona’s court system—and the severe risks of facing an Arizona DUI charge as a foreign citizen—will be able to help you choose the right defense strategy for your case and communicate with the judge and prosecutors on your behalf. An experienced DUI defense lawyer will also be able to help you make informed decisions about things like accepting a plea deal—which could potentially minimize your criminal penalties but still expose you to immigration-related consequences.

Speak with an Experienced Arizona DUI Defense Lawyer at The Weingart Firm

Are you facing a DUI charge in Arizona as a foreign citizen? If so, we can help you, and we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. To speak with an experienced Arizona DUI defense lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, please call 480-405-7922 or tell us how we can get in touch online today.