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DUI and Immigration Status

The last thing you want to do if you are applying for citizenship is get a DUI. Even if you're in the country legally on a visa or green card, immigration officials may deport you or downgrade your status on the basis of a criminal conviction, especially for a felony. Here's what you need to know about a how a DUI conviction could affect your immigration status. DUI and Deportation If you are a foreign national, a DUI might not necessarily lead to deportation. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) generally considers a number of factors with regard to the penalties faced by an immigrant to the U.S., and deportation is generally reserved for aggravated felonies like battery, theft, filing a fraudulent tax return, and failure to appear in court. Of course, if your DUI is charged as a felony, you could run the risk of deportation. A DUI could become a felony if you have had prior DUI convictions, had an extremely elevated blood alcohol concentration, had children in the car, were driving on a suspended or revoked license, or caused death or injury in a car accident. Status Update Even if you do not get deported, your immigration status could be altered after a DUI conviction. If you're a legal permanent resident, you could be deported or detained during removal proceedings, or be barred from becoming a naturalized citizen in the future. Refugees and asylees could be deported after a criminal conviction, even if they would be in grave danger in their home country, and a conviction may result in the inability to obtain legal permanent resident status.Non-citizens with temporary lawful status (including individuals with nonimmigrant visas and those with temporary protected status) could lose that status and be removed from the country for any felony conviction or two or more misdemeanor convictions. And because undocumented immigrants are not authorized to be in the U.S., any criminal offense can result in deportation. In some legal proceedings, like immigration or deportation proceedings, even an expungement of a DUI may still be considered as proof of a prior conviction. To know for sure how a DUI will affect your immigration status, contact a local DUI attorney today. Related Resources: Don't face a DUI alone. Get your case reviewed by a lawyer for free now. (Consumer Injury) Can Your U.S. Citizenship Be Revoked? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Can a Guilty Plea Affect My Immigration Status? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Which Crimes Can Get Legal Immigrants Deported? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Do I Need a Lawyer at My DUI Arraignment?

You've been arrested for a DUI, your arraignment is coming up, and you're itching to tell your side of the story. Maybe you weren't drunk, or you think the breathalyzer was broken, or you shouldn't have been pulled over in the first place. All you have to do is explain this to the judge, and everything will be all right. Not so fast, my friend. While an arraignment might be your first court appearance, it's not a full-blown trial. And while you may not be able to win your case at arraignment, you could lose it. So here's why you might want a lawyer by your side at your DUI arraignment. Arraignment ABCs An arraignment is a court hearing when a judge reads the formal charges against a defendant. In case of a DUI, you will be notified of all the charges against you, and ask how you plead. You can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. You may have even already been offered a plea bargain by the prosecutor on the case. Based on your plea, the judge will set your case for further proceedings, whether that is a trial and associated pre-trial proceedings, or further hearings or appearances related with a plea of guilty or no contest. If you've been in custody since your arrest, the judge may also alter your bail amount or release you on your own recognizance. Putting the Defense in DUI This may all seem very straightforward, but DUI arraignments can be complicated. While you're not required to have a lawyer present at arraignment, you have a legal right to one, in part because courts recognize the importance of arraignments in the criminal process. For instance, most DUI defendants don't know whether the plea deal they've been offered is a good one or not, or how to argue for reduced bail. And once you've entered a guilty plea, it's difficult to withdraw. You don't have to go through a DUI alone, so why try? An experienced DUI attorney can advise you on your rights, assess the merits of your case, argue for your release, and even plea bargain on your behalf. If you've been charged with DUI, you should contact a defense lawyer about your case, preferably before your arraignment. Related Resources: Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) 5 Things a DUI Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) (FindLaw Blotter) Why Do DUI Cases Take So Long to Resolve? (FindLaw Blotter) DUI Court Procedure (FindLaw)
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After a DUI Arrest, Don’t Forget Your DMV Hearing

In the aftermath of a DUI arrest, it's important to remember that in addition to the criminal charges you are facing, you may also have a limited amount of time to request a hearing with your state's DMV in order to avoid a lengthy driver's license suspension. In most states, immediately following a driving under the influence arrest, a person essentially has two different cases to deal with: the criminal case in criminal court and the administrative case through a state's Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent vehicle registration agency. Why is it important to know about this administrative hearing process? Driver's License Suspension In most states, a driver who's been pulled over and cited for suspected DUI will have his or her driver's license automatically suspended. In order to have your driver's license reinstated, a person arrested for DUI must file a request for a hearing within a specific number of days, typically 10, although the exact deadline varies by state. In Colorado, for example, drivers who have their license revoked following a DUI arrest only have 7 days to request a hearing. Even if your criminal DUI charges are dropped or you negotiate a plea to a lesser charge -- such as a "wet reckless" -- failure to request a DMV hearing may mean that your driver's license will remain suspended or revoked (although in some states, such as California, you may be able to regain your driving privileges if you are acquitted in criminal court). What Happens at a DMV Hearing? The DMV hearing is an administrative, not criminal, proceeding, but you still have the right to have an attorney present. You can also present evidence and testimony on your own behalf. Unlike in criminal court, where a person must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, DMV hearings generally operate under a lower "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof similar to that often found in civil trials. The DMV hearing is not conducted in front of a judge, but rather a hearing officer. However, the hearing is similar to a criminal trial in that the law enforcement officer who made the arrest must show that you were lawfully arrested for operating a vehicle over the legal limit of intoxication or that you refused to submit to a chemical test in violation of a state's implied consent laws. If you have questions about DMV hearings in your state, a DUI attorney will know the law and may be able to help you regain your driving privileges. You can also learn more about DUI arrests, charges, and penalties at FindLaw's section on DUI Law. Related Resources: Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) How to Reinstate a License After a DUI (FindLaw's Blotter) Top 5 Questions to Ask a DUI Lawyer (FindLaw's Blotter) What Happens If You Refuse a DUI Breath Test? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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5 Reasons Criminal Trials Are Often Delayed

Although an accused criminal is often arrested immediately following an alleged crime, that person's criminal trial may take years to complete because of delays in the proceedings. The ongoing trial of accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes, for example, was delayed several times before jury selection began earlier this week. According to Yahoo! News, the trial has been delayed for two and a half years, more than three times the timetable recommended by the Supreme Court of Colorado for felony criminal cases. The case has already had five trial dates and two judges, with a request for a third denied. In addition, more than 1,700 motions, notices, orders, and other court documents have been filed in the case. What are some of the more common reasons for delays in a criminal trial? Here are five: Psychiatric evaluations. Criminal trials may be delayed while the defendant undergoes psychiatric evaluation to determine whether or not he is fit to stand trial. The trial of another accused gunman, Jared Loughner -- who was convicted of killing six people in a shooting in which former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was also injured -- was delayed for more than a year after Loughner was found mentally unfit. Loughner eventually plead guilty. Change of venue. In high-profile cases like Holmes', defense attorneys often ask for a change of venue, arguing that it'd be impossible for their client to get a fair trial in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. This may lead to delays, even if the request is eventually denied, as it was in Holmes' case. More time needed to prepare. Trial delays may also be granted if attorneys can show they have not had adequate time to prepare. Judges generally have wide discretion to grant delays in order to allow attorneys to prepare or review evidence. But these requests may also be denied, as it was in the trial of George Zimmerman when his attorneys requested a six-month delay to ready their case. Scheduling conflicts. If an attorney involved in the case has a scheduling conflict with another case, a judge may agree to delay a trial in order to accommodate the attorney. In some instances, a judge may even agree to delay a trial for more personal reasons, such as the birth of a lawyer's grandchild. Emergencies. Personal emergencies, such as medical issues or family issues, may also delay a trial. But criminal trials are generally bound by a defendant's constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial (though this can potentially be waived). The need for a speedy trial may compel a judge to deny a request for a continuance, even if it means an attorney is obligated to appear in court along with her newborn baby. Find more information about criminal proceedings, criminal procedure, and a defendant's constitutional rights at FindLaw's section on Criminal Trial. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) Zimmerman Seeks 6-Month Trial Delay (FindLaw's Blotter) Why Do DUI Cases Take So Long to Resolve? (FindLaw's Blotter) Judge Urged to Reject Rod Blagojevich Trial Delay (FindLaw Blotter)
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Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With ‘G’

Welcome back to Legalese From A to Z, our series highlighting the meanings behind legal terms that may not be familiar to non-lawyers. Legalese describes the specialized language of the legal profession -- in other words, things only lawyers would say. With the help of FindLaw's Legal Dictionary, let's take a closer look at five of these terms that begin with the letter "G": Garnishment. Garnishment is a device used by creditors to attach the property or wages of a debtor to repay a debt. Wage garnishment can be used to collect a wide variety of debts, including back taxes, child support, and judgments from court cases. Gift tax. The gift tax is a tax imposed on gifts of property made during a person's lifetime. Certain gifts are exempt from the gift tax, such as gifts to a spouse, donations to a charitable organization, and gifts to any individual up to $13,000 per year. Good faith. Good faith is the absence of bad intentions when entering into an agreement, negotiating, or bringing a lawsuit. For example, in union collective bargaining situations, both the employer and the union are required to negotiate with one another in good faith. Good Samaritan law. A good Samaritan law is a law that provides immunity from liability for a good Samaritan who attempts to provide aid to someone in distress, but inadvertently causes further injury. A good Samaritan law recently passed in New Jersey, for example, provides legal protection to medics and ordinary citizens who administer opioid antidotes to drug overdose victims. Gratuitous. Gratuitous describes an act not involving consideration, compensation, or return benefit. In contract law, a gratuitous promise -- a promise made without an expectation of a return benefit or burden on the promisee -- may be unenforceable if the promisor fails to do what he promised. If you need help with defining a legal word or phrase, check out FindLaw's Legal Dictionary for free access to more than 8,000 definitions of legal terms. Or check back here next Sunday, when Legalese From A to Z will demystify five more legal terms you may not know, beginning with the letter "H." Related Resources: Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'A' (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Does 'Wet Reckless' Mean in a DUI Case? (FindLaw's Blotter) What's the Difference Between Bond and Bail? (FindLaw's Blotter) What Is the War Powers Act? What Does It Require? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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When Can a DUI Be Charged as Murder?

Drunken driving crashes can often be fatal, elevating a simple DUI to a full-blown murder charge. Case in point: A drunken driver in Colorado accused of killing a 17-year-old boy in an accident Monday is now facing a first-degree murder charge for his alleged actions, reports The Denver Post. Ever Olivos-Gutierrez, 40, lacks a drivers license and has incurred "numerous" DUIs prior to Monday's fatal crash. So when can a DUI be charged as murder? Extreme Facts Call for Severe Charges In a DUI crash that involves a death, prosecutors may have the option of charging a suspect with first-degree felony murder. In most states, if a suspect caused the death of a person while committing a dangerous felony, that person can be charged with a crime called "felony murder." In states like Colorado, these dangerous felonies include arson, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, sexual assault, or fleeing from police. Even if a fatal DUI is not eligible for a felony murder charge, it could potentially qualify as conduct that is extremely indifferent to human life. Drivers deemed to have acted so recklessly and with indifference to the risk to human life can also be charged with murder. These murder charges are also known as "depraved heart" murders. In the Colorado case, Olivos-Gutierrez is facing a murder charge for his DUI crash under a similar legal theory. Prosecutorial Discretion Most states give prosecutors the option to charge DUI offenders who cause fatalities with something less than murder. For example, involuntary manslaughter charges can apply to any person who caused another's death while performing a reckless or dangerous act that was a known risk to human life. It is not difficult for prosecutors to prove that driving while intoxicated is such a lethal risk, so involuntary manslaughter can be much easier to prove than murder for drunken drivers. Many states even have vehicular manslaughter charges which relate directly to deaths caused by reckless action (including intoxication) behind the wheel. Prosecutors in DUI fatality cases have the option to push for murder charges or a manslaughter or DUI charge. The prosecution can offer a plea bargain or even drop charges depending on the defendant's criminal history, willingness to cooperate, or lack of evidence. On the other hand, prosecutors also have the option to pursue murder charges for defendants with extensive criminal records, lack of remorse, or extensive evidence of wrongdoing. In any case, DUI murder charges are serious, and a criminal defense attorney can explain how and when they would apply. Related Resources: Do You Get a Public Defender for a DUI Case? (FindLaw's Blotter) Is Teen's 'Affluenza' DWI Sentence Too Lenient? (FindLaw's Blotter) 3 Ways a Misdemeanor DUI Can Become a Felony (FindLaw's Blotter) Breathalyzer Test Results: Are They Reliable? (Katz Lawyers)
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Kerry Kennedy Found Not Guilty of Drugged Driving

After a five-day trial, a New York jury found Kerry Kennedy not guilty of drugged driving on Friday. In 2012, Kennedy -- daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- was arrested and charged with driving while impaired after she crashed into a tractor-trailer while under the influence of a sleeping pill. Why was she found not guilty? Sleep Driving and DWIs On July 13, 2012, Kennedy drove her Lexus SUV. erratically after taking Zolpidem, a generic form of the sleep medication Ambien. She "sideswiped a tractor-trailer on a highway before she was found, slumped over her steering wheel, her car stalled on a local road," The New York Times reports. One of the common side effects of sleeping pills is sleep-walking and performing other actions while unconscious. Unfortunately for Kennedy and the other 60 million Americans who take prescription sleep aids, "sleep driving" isn't a defense to driving under the influence when a defendant voluntarily takes a sleeping pill. But Kennedy was able to successfully stave off her misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated because of an affirmative defense called a mistake of fact. Mistake of Fact Kennedy testified that she took the pill accidentally, mistaking it for medication she took for a thyroid condition. This type of defense is called a mistake of fact. The case ultimately turned on whether Kennedy should have been aware that she was feeling the drug's soporific effects -- as she was swerving and driving erratically -- and stopped the car. Prosecutors needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kennedy did realize she accidentally took Zolpidem and knew she was under the influence of the sleeping pill, but continued to drive. Kennedy claimed that she did not realize her mistake until well after the accident. Ultimately, jurors determined there was enough doubt in the case to reject the prosecution's case and find Kennedy not guilty, which is good news for Kennedy: She could have faced up to a year in jail if convicted, the Times reports. Related Resources: Kerry Kennedy 'Incredibly Grateful' for Not Guilty Verdict (ABC News) Are There Any Defenses to Drugged Driving? (FindLaw's Blotter) Can You Get a DUI Driving On Cold Medicine? (FindLaw's Blotter) Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
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Police Dashcam Video Can Be Key to Your Case

Police dashcams are tiny eyes on almost all law enforcement encounters, and they may be key to winning your criminal case. In the past, police misconduct might go unreported because there was no evidence -- like the classic "your taillight is busted" scenario. Now officers who act illegally are being caught by their own dashcams, and defendants are using them to dismiss cases. How can a dashcam video affect your defense? Here are three ways they can potentially be used in litigation: 1. To Prove No Law Was Broken. Especially in DUI cases, it is important for the prosecution to prove that a suspect's car was pulled over on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. If the officer states that a defendant was pulled over on suspicion of breaking a traffic law (e.g., changing lanes without signaling), then a dashcam video should confirm that. However, if the dashcam video shows that a defendant made no traffic violations before police pulled him or her over, any charges may be dismissed. If a traffic stop was performed illegally, any evidence which was obtained after the stop can be excluded from trial. If the evidence which would be excluded is the primary evidence in the case, a defense attorney can move for dismissal. 2. To Illustrate Police Misconduct. Dashcams can be useful to clear a defendant of wrongdoing and also to prove that the cops did do something wrong. In a New Jersey case, Marcus Jeter, 30, was cleared of resisting arrest and assault charges after a dashcam video revealed that two police officers were the actual aggressors, ABC's "Good Morning America" reports. Not only can dashcam evidence of police brutality and excessive force be key to getting your own criminal charges dismissed, it can be the smoking gun in a police brutality lawsuit. 3. To Highlight Problems With Your Case. Obtaining a dashcam video may also help your criminal defense attorney to better understand the flaws in your defense. If the dashcam video shows you drunk and belligerent, your attorney may attempt to file a motion to exclude that evidence. Failing that, you and your attorney can strategize about how the prosecution will use the dashcam footage -- possibly painting you in a poor light -- and can plan accordingly. For better or for worse, dashcam footage is compelling evidence and may make all the difference in your case. Related Resources: Dashcam Clears Bloomfield Man Of Resisting Arrest; 2 Officers Charged (New York's WCBS-TV) Family Releases Video of Man Being Run Over by Cop (FindLaw's Blotter) N.M. Cops' Minivan Shooting Comes Under Fire (FindLaw's Blotter) Randy Travis Sues Over DWI Dashcam Video (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
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3 Ways a Misdemeanor DUI Can Become a Felony

The lowest level of DUI is a misdemeanor, and most first-time DUIs are charged that way. However, there are certain circumstances that can turn a misdemeanor DUI into a felony. Whether you get charged with a misdemeanor or felony can greatly affect your punishment. Felonies are considered much more serious crimes and can result in more than a year in prison and hefty fines. On the other hand, misdemeanors usually result in less than a year in jail and potentially lesser fines. Drunken-driving laws vary by state, but in general, here are three ways that a misdemeanor DUI can become a felony: The DUI causes injury or death. In some states, a DUI or DWI charge becomes a felony if the intoxicated driver causes bodily harm or death to another person. For example, under California law, prosecutors can elevate a misdemeanor DUI to a felony if the intoxicated driver kills someone in a crash (otherwise known as vehicular manslaughter). Driver's license issues. Another way a misdemeanor DUI can become a felony is if it occurs while the driver has a suspended, restricted, or revoked license. For example, in Illinois, committing a drunken-driving offense when you already have your license suspended for whatever reason can become a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Prior DUI/DWI convictions. Habitual drunken-driving offenders can also face felony charges if they're caught drinking and driving again, within a certain time frame. For example, in New York, first-time offenders can face up to one year in jail for a misdemeanor DWI. However, if you get a second DWI conviction within 10 years, you can be charged with a felony DWI and incarcerated for up to four years in prison if convicted. Depending on your state's laws, there could be other ways in which your misdemeanor DUI becomes a felony. And there are other factors -- like whether you were convicted of DUI as a juvenile or whether your DUI conviction was expunged -- that can also affect the outcome of your case. That's why, if you're facing a drunken-driving charge, it's best to consult an experienced DUI attorney in your area as soon as possible. Related Resources: Lawmakers face long odds in expanding felony DUI definition (The Seattle Times) DUI Habitual Offenders: What Are the Consequences? (FindLaw's Blotter) What Is a DUI Causing Injury in Arizona? (FindLaw's Phoenix DUI Blog) At DUI Checkpoints, Are Drug Swabs Legal? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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