Immigration Consequences of Criminal Charges
Why non-citizens accused of a crime should talk to a criminal defense attorney
Being convicted of a crime can negatively impact a non-citizen’s immigration status and if a non-citizen or naturalized citizen is accused of a crime, they should talk to a criminal defense attorney. Whether or not a person is currently in immigration proceedings or could be in immigration proceedings, it is important to talk to a criminal defense attorney about how a conviction can negatively impact that person’s immigration status, including removal or deportation. A conviction can negatively impact a non-citizen’s application for a visa or green card. In some situations, it can even cause someone who already has a visa or green card to be removed or deported.
Guilty pleas are not the only way for a non-citizen to be convicted of a crime. INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) and INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) lay out what a conviction under immigration law entails. It states:
- In general-Except as provided in clause (ii), any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of-
(I) a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense) or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime, or
(II) a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)), is inadmissible.
Immigration law is unique because what constitutes a crime for immigration purposes not only includes being convicted by a judge or jury, or entering a guilty plea or “no contest” plea, but also includes a defendant simply admitting significant facts to support a conviction. Because of this lack of knowledge, many people going through the immigration process, including people who were immigrating legally to the United States, have been removed or deported. Also, a “crime of moral turpitude” (CMT) is a vague term and the interpretation which crimes qualify as CMTs is left solely to the government or immigration officials. The INA does not specifically list CMTs but courts have determined the following to fall into that category:
- voluntary manslaughter
- involuntary manslaughter, in some cases
- spousal abuse
- child abuse
- aggravated assault
- animal fighting
- fraud, and
- conspiracy, attempt, or acting as an accessory to a crime if that crime involved moral turpitude.
Ultimately, immigration law is complex and non-citizens who are accused of a crime need to speak with a criminal defense attorney to know how a conviction could impact their immigration status. It is equally as important for criminal defense attorneys to know the immigration status of their clients and exactly how convictions or potential convictions can impact their client’s future in the country.