What happens if you are convicted of a DUI (driving under the influence) based on drugs. An interesting discussion. If you have digested a drug, are you in possession of that drug for immigration purposes?

Steve presented the following scenario on Friday:
A client of ours, pled to that DUI (Xanax) in Arlington. He’s been LPR for 12 years, and the only things on his record are a Reckless Driving and the DUI, both from 2016. He wants to know about naturalization. My thought on this is that his only potential question has to do with Good Moral Character, and he should probably get some help explaining that he is a person of good moral character when he submits his N-400.

Here are Steve’s discussion points:

a. First of all, don’t travel outside of the US right now. He can totally get picked up on the way back in.
b. Get everything associated with the DUI (ASAP, Restricted OL, etc.) taken care of and get clear of “court supervision,” which will be done in about 12 months.
c. Once he is fully clear of the DUI matter, get his ass into our office so we can help him get to work on his N-400. I wonder if you think he should even wait a little bit longer to apply to naturalize than I am suggesting.
d. Do you know if a LPR with convictions could wind up in Removal Proceedings by getting the attention of USCIS with the submission of a N-400?

My answer:
So the bottom line is this: a drug conviction is a permanent bar to naturalization, and a cause célèbre for deportation – even for an LPR. The code that deals with this is INA § 237(a)(2)(B)(i) (deportability). Admissibility is covered under State Manual on approving entry visas (see also: INA 212 drug convictions dealing with admissability).

Xanax is a schedule IV controlled substance as defined by 21 U.S.C. 802. Apparently, it is has low probability for abuse. Also, an argument can be made that a DUI is not a drug offense per se, and if there is no inquiry into what type of DUI it was, it may be possible to submit a disposition paper without mentioning xanax at all (the N400 adjudicator does not generally inquire into the substance of the offense if a disposition is provided). To constitute a drug offense, the statute is clear – you must be convicted of possession or distribution. There is nothing saying that ingestion constitutes possession under Federal Law.

As for good moral conduct, Ragoonanan v. USCIS, a 2007 US district court case out of Minnesota, held that one DUI conviction that results in a year of probation does not bar a good moral character finding. I’m not sure if the 4th Circuit has followed suit, but probably. You should expect a denial, followed by an appeal. It is important to show rehabilitation and regular ameliorating actions.

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