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Canadian Citizen Justin Bieber Arrested: Immigration Consequences?

Canadian citizen Justin Bieber was arrested early this morning for Driving Under the Influence, Driving with No Valid Driver’s License and Resisting Arrest. Not only will he face possible criminal sanctions, including the possibility of a jail sentence, he could also incur some negative immigration consequences.

Driving with No Valid Driver’s License is not by itself a deportable offense or an offense that would make him inadmissible upon reentry. However, in conjunction with a DUI conviction, the immigration consequences become somewhat more grey.

The Board of Immigration Appeals has been inconsistent on its stance on whether, and when, a DUI is a crime involving moral turpitude. A simple DUI with no aggravators is not a crime involving moral turpitude. Matter of Torres-Varela, 23 I&N Dec. 78 (BIA 2001). However, a DUI with some attached aggravator may be considered a crime involving moral turpitude. Matter of Lopez-Meza, 22 I&N Dec. 1188 (BIA 1999). For example, a DUI with an element of knowledge, like driving with a suspended license or driving with no license, can be enough for the conviction to be deemed a crime involving moral turpitude.

There is no BIA decision on whether a conviction for resisting an officer without violence is or is not a crime involving moral turpitude. The Eleventh Circuit has concluded that a conviction for resisting an officer with violence is a crime involving moral turpitude. Cano v. U.S. Att’y Gen., No. 11-15918 (11th Cir. 2013). The Court reasoned that the statute requires the defendant to knowingly intend to offer or use violence and therefore is a crime involving moral turpitude. Conversely, resisting without violence, under Fla. Stat. ยง843.02, simply requires resistance, obstruction or opposition to an officer without offering or doing violence. Therefore, it would appear that a conviction for resisting an officer without violence would not be considered a crime involving moral turpitude. However, because of the lack of precedent decisions, it would be wise for his criminal defense attorney to attempt to negotiate a nol pros as to this count, if possible.

A conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude can have damaging immigration consequences. It makes a person inadmissible. It can preclude a finding of good moral character thus barring a person from becoming a United States Citizen for a specified amount of time (usually 5 years). It can also lead to deportation in certain circumstances.

Anytime a non U.S. citizen is arrested for a crime, they are in danger of having negative immigration consequences. Much of the law is grey when it comes to determining whether a specific state conviction will render a person inadmissible or deportable under Federal law. Mr. Bieber’s attorneys will have to take great care to ensure that they don’t expose their client to a potentially negative immigration consequence as a result of any plea or conviction in the criminal proceedings.