COURT WATCH: Judge Denies Appeal by Immigrant Seeking to Reduce DUI Felony to Misdemeanor to Apply for Citizenship

By Kaylynn Chang

ALAMEDA, CA — The accused, planning to apply for naturalization, faced the issue of possible denial of immigration relief because of his previous criminal record, which includes four Driving Under the Influence charges, with three DUIs in 2007 and one in 2009.

But here last week, at the René C. Davidson Courthouse, Alameda County Superior Court, the accused petitioned the court to change his charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Appealing under Penal Code section 1473.7 that seeks to vacate the accused’s case on the basis of appearing in immigration court to apply for citizenship, Deputy Public Defender Michelina Maria Perani argued the felony charge would make renewing or applying for citizenship difficult or almost impossible.

The accused was detained in an ICE detention center from 2009 to 2010 for more than 200 days. The accused had also requested and had been granted temporary citizenship status in 2012, yet it expired in 2022.

However, Deputy District Attorney Timothy William Wagstaffe argued charging the DUI as a felony is uncontestable.

Bringing in a witness—Christopher Infante, who worked at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy DA during 2009—DDA Wagstaffe interrogated the witness to show the accused’s case should stand as a felony with little exception.

Addressing the considerable delay that took place in between the accused’s charges, time in the detention center, and the motion, DPD Perani stated the accused had hired a previous attorney for his cases, but the attorney failed to file a motion because of his disbarment and no intention to help the accused.

According to DPD Perani, the former attorney had made no attempts to make a case and had scammed the accused instead.

However, Judge Stevens did not consider this information sufficient in excusing the accused because there was no formal declaration of evidence. The judge stated the accused, even during his time at the detention center, must have known that immigration relief predicated on his offenses.

Judge Stevens determined the accused cannot have his sentence vacated despite the motive to apply for immigration relief.

Concluding that DPD Perani had no more substantial evidence to propose, Judge Stevens officially denied the motion with no prejudice, so that if later evidence were to appear, the court would be able to hear from the accused again.

About The Author

Kaylynn Chang is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley looking to major in Legal Studies with a strong interest in criminal justice and judicial law. Having years of experence with journalism and leading a publication, she loves to look for the stories of her community, focusing on the hidden voices and intriguing tales of people. She hopes to attend law school in the future, but for now she is looking to gain experience and experiment with her path. A passionate creator, a cafe connoisseur, and a library enthusiast, Kaylynn is always looking for small adventures along with accomplishing big goals.

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