Can I be deported due to a criminal or DUI conviction?

If you are not a US citizen (i.e. foreign national) and are convicted of a “deportable crime,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can deport you back to your home country and bar you from re-entering the US for a number of years.

The risk of deportation applies to ALL non-US citizens, including for example:

  • Permanent residents, green card holders and other visa holders who have lived legally in the US for decades and own homes or well established businesses 
  • International students and scholars in the US on student and exchange visas
  • Illegal immigrants who entered the US illegally or who have stayed past their visa expiration
  • Refugees that have been granted asylum
  • Non-US citizens that have a dependent child who is a US citizen

But hope is not lost.  If you are a foreign national in trouble with federal agents or the police, you should contact our experienced immigration and criminal defense attorneys immediately. Our skilled attorneys know how to aggressively defend you from charges with the goal of avoiding criminal conviction and deportation altogether.

Call 949-424-5450

for a Free Consultation with our skilled criminal justice attorneys.

Sherry Cross, Esq Criminal & DUI Defense Attorney

Sherry Cross, Esq
Criminal & DUI Defense Attorney


If you Have Been charged with a crime, contact us for expert help

Call 949-424-5450 for a Free confidential case review. It is critical to quickly evaluate both immigration and criminal defense strategies for best results.


List of deportable crimes & offenses

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Act 237, deportable crimes and offenses can include:

Crimes of moral turpitude (CIMT)

As defined in immigration law, crimes of moral turpitude involve an act that is depraved, dishonest, or vile. Administrative case law has characterized moral turpitude as "a nebulous concept, which refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience."  Some examples are rape, fraud, murder, arson, and assault with the intention to rob or kill. A person may be deported if convicted of a CIMT within five years of admission to the US or if they commit 2 or more unrelated CIMTs during at any time after they are admitted. A petty offense exception may apply if the penalty for the crime is less that 1 year.

Aggravated felonies

Congress frequently adds or changes the offenses on the list of aggravated felonies.  Examples of deportable crimes and offenses that are generally defined as aggravated felonies include:

  • Violent crimes, theft, bribery, counterfeiting, forgery, perjury, racketeering, or burglary with imprisonment of at least one year
  • Disclosure of classified government information
  • Rape, murder, or kidnapping
  • Child pornography or sexual abuse of a minor 
  • Alien smuggling
  • Owning or operating a house of prostitution
  • Fraud, tax evasion, or money laundering with victim losses exceeding $10,000
  • Trafficking in guns, illicit drugs, humans, destructive devices or explosives
  • Conspiracy or an attempt to commit aggravated felonies
  • Treason, espionage or terrorism

Depending on the facts of the case, our skilled defense attorneys would work to get the charges dismissed, fight the charges in trial, or negotiate reducing the sentence or criminal charge to a lesser crime that doesn't have the risk of deportation.

Can I be deported for a DUI?

The short answer is usually no if you are lawfully in the US.  In the 2004 US Supreme Court Leocal v. Ashcroft case, the court determined that a DUI is not a “crime of violence” and, therefore not an aggravated felony. The Court also ruled that a crime of violence includes “a higher degree of intent than negligent or merely accidental conduct.” Therefore, a DUI conviction is generally not a crime for which a legal alien can be deported for.

DUI & Immigration Status

If you are applying for a green card or permanent residence, a California DUI conviction can cause problems when trying to change immigration status. A DUI conviction can under some circumstances bar you from receiving a green card or from eventually becoming a US citizen. Or if you are here on an F-1 student visa, you don't want to take chances in the rapidly changing US political environment where the US government is even harsher and swift when it comes to immigrant policies.

Aggravating factors can make a DUI deportable

The facts around each person's DUI can vary dramatically and will be taken into account during any immigration evaluation. Some DUIs also involve an accident, reckless driving, injury to others, driving on a suspended license or other aggravating factors that lead to multiple convictions that could make you removable. Another aggravating factor would be if the DUI was due to driving under the intoxication of illegal drugs such as those on the DEA list of controlled substances.

Federal immigration interpretation of state criminal convictions can vary as many determinations are subject to the interpretation of different agents and judges.  Each case needs to be carefully evaluated for risks in how an immigration evaluation would look at the conviction and immigration status. Our experienced immigration and DUI defense attorneys will evaluate the specific facts to your case and know how to advise and defend you for the best possible case outcome.

Can a DUI prevent me from becoming a US citizen?

The process of going from having a green card to becoming a US citizen includes an application and examination process that includes a test of “good moral character” for the 5 years prior to the application. A DUI conviction on your record can complicate that, especially if there are aggravating factors. It is generally a good idea to allow some time to pass from the DUI with a clean driving record and to follow any court instructions carefully. That includes any prescribed treatment. It is advisable to consult with an experienced attorney to review the specific facts for your case.

Call 949.424.5450 For A Free Confidential Consultation

Our experienced attorneys can review the specific facts for your case & answer your questions.


This information does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for individual case consultation and research. No representations are made as to the accuracy of this information and appropriate legal counsel should be consulted before taking any actions.  Contact us for a free consultation regarding your specific case and facts.

About us

Chudnovsky Law is a California based law firm practicing in the areas of immigration, criminal defense, drunk driving DUI defense, business, family and personal injury law. Our firm offers a rare team of experienced multi-lingual immigration and business attorneys and top criminal defense and injury attorneys.

The intersection between immigration and criminal law is one of the most complex and technical areas of US law. Chudnovsky Law is recognized as a leader in criminal defense for clients from all countries and addressing the immigration consequences of criminal charges.

Chudnovsky Law services the entire state of California including Los Angeles county, Marin county, Orange county, Riverside county, San Diego county, San Francisco county, Santa Barbara county, and Ventura county.

Languages spoken

English, French, Italian, Spanish and Amharic.