Not a U.S. Citizen - Can I Be Deported If I Am Convicted of a Crime?​

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Individuals who do not have citizenship status do not have as many rights as citizens and must constantly worry about whatever immigration status they have being stripped away from them. Being convicted of a crime may very well mean that an individual can be deported from the United States. Being aware of these consequences from the beginning of the case can help individuals make more informed choices. 

Individuals who are convicted of an aggravated felony or a crime of moral turpitude may be subject to deportation. 

Aggravated Felonies

If a person is convicted of an aggravated felony at any point after being admitted in the country, he or she will generally have removal proceedings initiated against him or her. Aggravated felonies for the purposes of immigration policies include more than crimes labeled a felony. 

They may include misdemeanors. Specifically, to be a general aggravated felony, it must be a crime of violence with a term of imprisonment for one year or longer or a theft crime with a prison term of one year or more. This group of felonies originally included only serious offenses such as murder and drug trafficking. 

However, less serious crimes are now included, such as filing a fraudulent tax return, failing to appear in court and battery. Some other crimes that are enumerated under immigration laws that are aggravated felonies are sexual abuse of a minor, drug trafficking, firearm trafficking, money laundering, federal racketeering, federal gambling, federal peonage offenses, fraud, deceit, smuggling aliens, bribery of a witness and conspiracy of any of these offenses, among others. 

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

These crimes are those that society deems morally unacceptable. If a person convicts a crime of this nature within five years of entering the country, he or she is generally able to be deported and will not be found to be eligible for relief from removal. 

These crimes include tax evasion, perjury, certain kinds of fraud and child abuse. However, courts may interpret the conviction of crimes in a different manner, based on the particular circumstances of the crime or the elements that comprise the crime.

Other Crimes

Under immigration law, the conviction of certain enumerated crimes are also grounds for deportation. These crimes include violating federal or state law pertaining to a controlled substance, firearm or destructive device convictions, treason and related offenses, threatening certain political figures, domestic violence and violating a protection order. 

Immigration Status

If a person without citizenship status commits a crime, the potential punishment can also be affected by the type of immigration status that he or she has. Typically, the greater status that the person has, the harder it is for him or her to be removed. However, legal permanent residents can still be removed, even if they have been in the country for decades. 

Additionally, individuals with certain status or a lack of status may be deported for a less serious crime than those listed above. For example, a non-citizen without any kind of legal status may be removed for a conviction of any criminal offense, even if it is not particularly serious. Likewise, a non-citizen with temporary lawful status, such as someone on a visa, may be deported if he or she is convicted of two misdemeanors. 

Other Consequences

While deportation is at the top of the list of concerns, an individual who is not a citizen may face other consequences for the conviction of a crime. For example, a conviction may bar a person from pursuing a greater immigration status. This bar may delay future immigration petitions or forever bar them. Likewise, individuals may be barred from pursuing citizenship. 

Plea Bargains

Before a non-citizen accepts a plea bargain for a crime that he or she has committed, he or she should be aware of any potential consequences of a conviction on his or her immigration case. While a plea bargain may appear to be a good deal with a minimum sentence or no jail time at all, a person may find that he or she has an immigration hold put on him or her immediately after pleading guilty to the crime. In some situations, a plea can be structured in a way to decrease the possibility that the individual will be removed. 

Legal Assistance

Because the consequences of conviction can be so dire for a non-citizen, it is imperative that an individual of this nature who is facing a criminal conviction discuss the case with a criminal defense lawyer who is knowledgeable about immigration issues.

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