A person who is not a United States citizen, including lawful permanent residents, can be deported because of criminal convictions that are considered “aggravated felonies” or “crimes of moral turpitude” under United States immigration law.
For non-citizens who are accused of a crime, the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction may be far greater than any punishment fine, probation or even jail time.
Determining what crimes a non-citizen can plead guilty to is very technical and complicated legal work. A well-meaning criminal defense attorney can negotiate what appears to be an excellent plea agreement, and erroneously advise their client to agree to something that subjects the client to deportation and/or a permanent bar on re-entry to the United States, or cause delays in obtaining immigration benefits.
The Immigration and Nationality Act has developed its own definition for what constitutes a “crime of moral turpitude” or “aggravated felony.” For example, these definitions include a guilty plea or deferred adjudication (and these are usually a very good deal for a citizen).
There is no list of crimes that constitute moral turpitude or aggravated felonies; rather, a variety of factors must be painstakingly researched. This is why a non-citizen charged with a crime or who has a criminal conviction should consult both an expert criminal defense attorney and an immigration attorney.
Ideally, the non-citizen charged with a crime will have a criminal defense attorney who understands immigration consequences during plea negotiations. If someone already has a criminal conviction, they need the help of an immigration attorney who can classify that crime.
There are almost no legal avenues that prevent the deportation of non-citizens convicted of an aggravated felony or a controlled substance violation. For these crimes, length of residency in the United States or the existence of spouses, children or parents with U.S. citizenship will not prevent a non-citizen’s deportation.
For non-citizens convicted of crimes of moral turpitude and domestic violence offenses, there may be some hope for the client. There exist limited immigration remedies that may prevent deportation. Success will depend on various factors including the immigration status of the non-citizen, length of residence in the U.S. and the existence of relatives with citizenship or lawful permanent residency.
Increasing numbers of immigrants are being accused of crimes, yet very few immigration remedies exist for non-citizens convicted of crimes, and only a knowledgeable attorney can find any possible relief. Muhaisen & Muhaisen, LLC uniquely combines expert criminal defense and immigration representation.
Our understanding of the impact of criminal convictions on non-citizens may prevent the permanent separation of United States citizen children from their non-citizen parent or the forced return of a refugee to a country where there is a threat of persecution or torture.
We have represented hundreds of non-citizens in both criminal and immigration courts. If you are a non-citizen accused of a crime, a non-citizen with a criminal conviction; or an attorney representing someone in this situation, contact our office immediately for a consultation.