If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, you’re probably worried about how it may affect your immigration status. The interplay of criminal and immigration law is complicated, and you have to know how to delicately navigate the issues before you if you want to protect your freedom and your ability to remain in the United States. After all, a criminal conviction could lead to deportation.
What crimes can lead to deportation?
There are essentially two types of criminal convictions that can lead to removal: aggravated felonies and crimes involving moral turpitude. These may seem like nebulous phrases, but there is ample case law out there that helps define what each of them mean. Let’s look at them in turn.
Most aggravated felonies are serious criminal offenses. Murder, rape, drug trafficking and other sexual offenses are some of them. These crimes will almost always lead to deportation, and you’ll likely be rendered inadmissible for reentry once the removal has occurred.
However, there are other offenses that may not seem serious that will also be considered by the government to constitute an aggravated felony. These are primarily offenses that lead to a sentence of at least one year in prison and stem from theft or a violent crime.
Again, there’s very little room for defending against deportation when a conviction has been obtained for one of these offenses, which is why you’ll need to be careful with how you handle your criminal case.
Crimes of moral turpitude
These offenses are little more challenging to understand. Generally speaking, they are crimes that involve some sort of dishonesty or an intent to harm someone. Since there’s no definitive list of crimes that are considered to involve moral turpitude, there’s a lot of room for argument if the conviction ends up leading to deportation proceedings.
With that said, given the ambiguity of what constitutes a crime of moral turpitude, even common offenses may leave you at risk of deportation. This includes offenses related to domestic violence and drunk driving.
The timing of one of these offenses is critical, too. If you’re convicted of a crime of moral turpitude within five years of entry, you’re more likely to be subjected to removal proceedings. The same is true if you’ve been convicted of multiple crimes of moral turpitude.
Obtaining a waiver
Even if you’ve committed of a crime considered to involve moral turpitude, you may be able to get it waived for immigration purposes. This often happens when your sentence was for less than a year and you served less than six months in jail or prison. You may have other waiver options available to you, too, which is why you might want to talk to an attorney about your situation and how best to navigate it.
What are your next steps?
If you’ve been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you should think about immediately reaching out to an immigration law attorney to determine how best to protect your interests. Given the complicated nuances involved with immigration law, it’s a good idea to avoid making any decisions on your own until you can consult with one of these legal professionals.
While we certainly want you to obtain the legal assistance that you need, we also know that this is an incredibly stressful time for you and your family. So, while you and your attorney are navigating the complexities of your legal situation, also make sure that you’re taking care of yourself by seeking support from family members, friends and perhaps even a mental health professional.