The overlap between criminal and immigration law can get complicated very quickly, and if you are in this situation, it is always best to consult with an attorney. Generally speaking, any time a green card holder commits a crime, two questions must be asked.
The first question is is it the type of crime for which the immigrant can be found inadmissible, and can be denied reentry to the U.S. after a trip that lasted over 180 days or matched certain other criteria?
“Inadmissibility” refers to a list of reasons within the immigration laws that someone can be prevented from entering the United States. A green card application will be approved only in the person is found not to be “inadmissible” unless a waiver was granted.
When you have a green card and leave the U.S,, your request to reenter will be based on the grounds of inadmissibility if you either stayed away for 180 days or more, committed a crime before you left the U.S., or committed a crime while you were away. In the case of a DUI, the grounds of inadmissibility most likely to come into play are commission of a crime of moral turpitude, (which a simple DUI is currently not), conviction of two or more crimes with a sentence of at least five years, drug or alcohol addiction, or conviction of a crime involving a controlled substance.
The second question is whether the type of crime is one for which you can be deported from the U.S. There is a a list of grounds of “deportability” which apply to green card holders. If you fall under this list you can be placed into removal proceedings and ultimately deported from the U.S. even if you haven’t taken a trip and tried to return. When you travel, however, the chances that your file will be looked at increase along with the risk of your deportability being discovered.
For a DUI, the grounds of deportability that may apply include convictions for an aggravated felony, which is a very broad category that includes not just serious crimes but also various other crimes where the sentence was, or could have been, one year or more. Also included are violent crimes, crimes of moral turpitude, or crimes involving controlled substances.
As you can see from this brief outline, the ultimate outcome of any criminal case, even something such as a simple DUI can have serious consequences upon your green card status and your ability to reenter the country should you leave. The best course of action is to always consult an experienced attorney should you find yourself in such a situation.