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Immigration & Criminal Convictions

Non-U.S. citizens who are convicted of misdemeanor or felony crimes may be deported from the United States as a result of the criminal conviction. In addition, defendants who are not citizens of the United States at the time of conviction may be denied United States citizenship status even if he or she is not deported from the United States.

A criminal defense attorney should review all criminal charges with a defendant in light of the defendant's citizenship status so that a conviction will have the least amount of impact on the defendant with respect to his or her immigration concerns.

Defendants who are charged with a crime in the United States should take special precaution before pleading guilty to any criminal charge, especially a criminal charge that is considered a crime involving moral turpitude , a crime of violence, or an aggravated felony. These types of crimes result in harsh consequences for immigrant defendants.

In addition, if the defendant has a prior criminal history he or she will have additional immigration problems upon any new criminal conviction or violation of probation.

A crime of moral turpitude is a criminal act that involves dishonesty or is considered to be morally wrong, such as drug dealing, murder, theft, robbery, burglary, sex offenses, gang offenses, etc. These cases are committed while the defendant had an evil thought or design while carrying out the offense. On the other hand, crimes like drunk driving, simple battery, and possession of a deadly weapon are not generally considered crimes of moral turpitude. For more information on crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT), see CIMT.

A crime of violence is any crime that is committed by violence such robbery, rape, domestic violence, kidnapping, murder, etc. However, crimes like burglary or involuntary manslaughter do not necessarily involve violence. Keep in mind, that for immigration issues, many crimes of violence are also classified as crimes involving moral turpitude.

An aggravated felony is any felony conviction where the jail or prison sentence is longer than one year. An aggravated felony can be confused with the aggravated term for a felony sentence. These are two different concepts. A aggravated felony is an immigration term that means the defendant received more than a one year sentence; an aggravated term for a felony sentence simply means that the defendant received the longest jail or prison term allowed for crime that has a triad sentencing scheme.

Remember, immigration issues are in addition to any penalties imposed for the criminal conviction. For example, a defendant may be found guilty for the crime of robbery and be ordered to serve a prison sentence; thereafter, upon the defendant's release from prison, he or she may be deported because of the robbery conviction.

In many cases a criminal defense attorney can negotiate a criminal conviction in such a way as to avoid deportation for the immigrant. This is done by either negotiating for a change to the criminal charge, the sentence associated with the charge, or the language in the record of conviction.

In some cases, an immigration attorney will work closely with the criminal defense attorney to assure that any consequence of a criminal conviction will have the least negative impact on the immigrant's citizenship status. When available, an immigration attorney and a criminal defense attorney can work together to ascertain the immigrant's exceptions to deportation (Waiver, Asylum, Amnesty) even if the defendant otherwise pleads to a crime that can lead to deportation or denial of citizenship.

Immigration Hold: In addition, a non-U.S. citizen criminal defendant will likely have an immigration hold placed on him by the Department of Homeland Security's immigration section known as Immigration Customs & Enforcement (I.C.E.); the immigration ICE hold does not allow the immigrant to bail out of jail due to his or her immigration status and many defendants will be transferred to immigration detention center.. This makes the criminal case more difficult on the defendant and the defendant's family.

If you or a loved one is charged with a crime in the United States and the person is not a United States citizen it is absolutely vital that you retain a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with United States immigration law as it pertains to criminal convictions and guilty pleas. In cases where a plea is non-optional you must retain a criminal defense attorney who is competent and experienced and can handle all types of misdemeanor and felony cases through trial.

Important: Only U.S. citizens are protected from deportation or denial of re-entry into the United States. Both legal and illegal immigrants may be deported upon a criminal conviction. Green card holders, permanent resident aliens, immigrants with work permits or travel visas, and other non-U.S. citizens are not completely protected from deportation upon a criminal conviction.

To learn more about deportation, becoming a U.S. citizen, ICE, DHS, and immigration consequences for criminal history, contact our immigration attorneys today. Our defense team is made up of criminal defense and immigration lawyers who are available every day of the week to assist you. We have Spanish speaking lawyers and we can even visit jails or ICE detention centers in some cases. Call today!



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