Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and other traffic offenses have unique consequences for immigrants in the United States whether they have been lawfully admitted or not. While all crimes may be considered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in removal proceedings, certain crimes carry more weight. Crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT) may render an alien inadmissible or deportable depending on their status. DWI offenses may also lead undocumented immigrants to receive higher priority for removal proceedings.
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has defined crimes involving moral turpitude as conduct that is inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed other persons, either individually or to society in general. Crimes involving moral turpitude require an element of intent that is absent from ordinary DWI cases. Intent for CIMT must be at least recklessness (knowingly endangering another’s health or safety). However, the addition of an aggravating factor such as driving with a suspended license or with a child in the car or the commission of an additional crime such as using illegal drugs is usually enough to trigger a CIMT. (It should be noted that illegal use of a controlled substance is another, separate, ground for inadmissibility, see 8 USC 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) and 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II))
Certain traffic convictions such as Driving While Intoxicated may also lead to higher priority by DHS with regards to apprehension, detention and removal of undocumented immigrants. Because of the high volume of undocumented immigrants in the United States, DHS has created a priority system designed to streamline removal and prioritize the removal of aliens that pose a “threat to national security, border security and public safety”.