If you are in the United States as a permanent resident or in any non-immigrant status and have a run in with law enforcement, chances are you are concerned as to how this could affect your current and future status in the United States.
Depending upon the severity of the crime or crimes, you could be found removable and placed into deportation proceedings. You may also be ineligible or inadmissible for certain immigration categories. If you have been arrested, cited or charged with any type of crime, you should immediately consult with an immigration attorney. While it is important to obtain a criminal defense attorney to assist with your criminal matter, a separate immigration attorney is just as important in order to address any impact this could have on your status and how to address it properly and timely.
Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT)
The definition of a crime of moral turpitude is broad, particularly from the standpoint of immigration law. Overall, the blanket definition of a crime of moral turpitude is a crime that involves “fraud, larceny, and intent to harm persons or things.” (9 FAM 302.3-2(B)(2)(U).).
Some examples of crimes of moral turpitude include but are not limited to fraud, embezzlement, kidnapping and assault.
Many different crimes can fall under these categories and it can be overwhelming to try and determine if a crime you have been charged with or convicted of falls under it or not. To determine if a crime you have been convicted of falls under a crime of moral turpitude and could make you removable, it is best to consult with an immigration attorney.
Petty Offense Exception
There is an exception made for crimes involving moral turpitude called the Petty Offense Exception. A crime of moral turpitude may fall under petty offense exception if:
- The “petty offense” is the only CIMT the applicant has ever committed;
- The sentence imposed for the offense was six months or less; and
- The maximum possible sentence for the offense does not exceed one year.
An example of the Petty Offense Exception would be if someone in Virginia was charged with VA Code § 18.2-96. Petit larceny. It involves a crime of moral turpitude because it is a theft. However, it is a class 1 misdemeanor which means the maximum sentence for this crime could not be more than one year. If this was the alien’s first offense and they were not given a sentence over six months, then this would fall under the exception. This exception does not apply to every type of crime. For example, crimes involving controlled substances, e.g. marijuana, or crimes of obstruction of justice (e.g. accessory after the fact) have their own immigration consequences, which do not have the same exceptions as crimes involving moral turpitude.
What Happens if You Committed a CIMT
You are at risk to be removable if:
- The crime was committed during the first five years after your admission to the United States.
- You commit two or more crimes of moral turpitude in two separate, unrelated incidents.
If one of the above-mentioned applies to you, you may be deportable and/or inadmissible. But there is a possibility to apply for a waiver. There are specific qualifications in order to wave a crime of moral turpitude and not be found inadmissible, depending on the specific type of waiver for which you may be eligible.
Aggravated felonies are more clearly defined than crimes of moral turpitude and the crimes defined as aggravated felonies are specifically listed under I.N.A. § 101(a)(43). Some of them include murder, rape, crimes of sexual nature against children, crimes against the government such as treason, perjury, obstruction of justice, accessory after the fact etc.
An aggravated felony conviction can be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to overcome. That is why it is so important to consult with both a criminal and immigration attorney before you take any steps in criminal case such as plea agreement.
Criminal Lawyer and Immigration Lawyer
Immigrants charged with crimes should consult with a criminal lawyer and an experienced immigration lawyer. Your immigration lawyer will collaborate and work in concert with your criminal lawyer to ensure that you do not become deportable or inadmissible as a result of your criminal history. Sometimes, a criminal charge may seem quite simple and routine for a criminal lawyer. But it may end up having serious immigration consequences for their immigrant clients. Therefore, normally, criminal defense lawyers advise their immigrant clients to also consult with immigration lawyers who would issue an opinion on the immigration consequences of the crime and coordinate with the criminal lawyer to achieve the most favorable result for the client.
Attorneys at I.S. Law Firm have helped numerous immigrants charged with crimes to navigate through plea agreements, trials and other steps to avoid serious immigration consequences of their criminal matters. In handling a criminal-immigration case (often referred to as “crimigration case”) we work closely with criminal defense lawyers, our clients and sometimes with prosecutors, to eliminate or minimize the effects of the criminal case on permanent residence, immigration status or visa applications.
To learn more about our services and for consultation, please contact us at +1-703-527-1779 or via e-mail:[email protected].