If you have a driver’s license, chances are you’re well aware of the seriousness of a DUI conviction. From hefty fines to mandatory jail time, alcohol treatment programs, and ignition interlocks, DUI penalties are serious. If you happen to get a DUI in another country, however, the expectations aren’t as clear. If you have been convicted of an overseas DUI or plan to drive in a foreign country, it’s important to understand how the conviction will impact you stateside.
Non-Entry and Deportation
Non-US citizens are not as likely to be deported to their home country for a DUI as they would be for other crimes. Typically, a foreigner would have to commit an aggravated felony or violent crime for their visa to be revoked. However, these guidelines do not apply to undocumented immigrants who can be deported for any criminal offense. The Immigration and Nationality Act outlines specific crimes that can result in deportation including “crimes of moral turpitude.” While there is no definitive list of moral crimes, DUIs can fall into a grey area depending on the severity of the conviction and subsequent penalties. They may also fall under “convictions involving controlled substances” or “certain firearm offenses” if there is a firearm in the vehicle at the time of arrest.
As a US citizen, you may not be authorized to reenter the foreign country where your DUI arrest took place. Canada specifically dictates that foreigners may be denied entry for major and minor crimes including DUI and other moving violations involving alcohol.
Indirect Consequences of Overseas DUI
Even in “best case scenario” DUI convictions—first time offenses that did not result in injury or death—getting arrested for DUI overseas can extend beyond its firsthand penalties. A foreigner who wishes to renew an immigration visa may face delays and/or difficulty proving eligibility. The US naturalization process may also be impeded as a result of DUI offenders who do not meet the moral character requirements.
Additionally, penalties are increased upon second and subsequent offenses even if the initial DUI got a reduced sentence of “wet reckless.” The same logic applies to overseas DUIs. In other words, if you get your first DUI in Canada and your second in the United States, you will likely be prosecuted as a repeat offender and face harsher penalties like higher fines, mandatory jail time, and a longer driver’s license suspension.
Active Duty Military
US military members who commit a DUI offense off base while stationed or deployed overseas will not only face consequences by the local court system, they may be subject to punitive action by their commanding officer. An overseas DUI conviction could mean substance abuse classes, additional training, and the revocation of on-base privileges. In serious circumstances, the military may charge the offender with disorderly conduct or, worse yet, charge them with a DUI after the conclusion of civilian court proceedings.
Overseas DUIs that occur on base can result in a reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, military separation with dishonorable discharge, and/or imprisonment.
The bottom line is that DUIs do not stay in their country of origin. While laws vary from nation to nation, the implications of a DUI can and often do extend beyond the border. If you’ve been convicted of an overseas DUI as a first time offender or you are concerned about how it will affect a stateside DUI, contact an experienced DUI attorney for legal counsel.