DWI conviction as grounds for deportation – Leocal v. Ashcroft

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that drunk driving is not a “crime of violence” within the meaning of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Under that statute, non-citizens who commit crimes of violence that are punishable by a term of imprisonment of at least one year are eligible for deportation. The petitioner in this case, a lawful resident alien, was convicted of drunk driving and causing serious bodily injury in Florida. He was imprisoned for a term of years, during which time the INS instituted removal proceedings against him. In a unanimous opinion written by the Chief Justice, the Court held that state-level drunk driving statutes that contain no mens rea component (like New Jersey) or an element of mere negligent conduct do not constitute crimes of violence and thus do not provide a basis for deportation under the INA.

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