How Does A Criminal Conviction Impact Immigration Status?

If you are living in California on a visa, as a permanent resident, or you are undocumented, a criminal charge or conviction can have severe consequences on your immigration status. However, some crimes minimally impact immigration status. Suppose you have been charged with a crime in California. In that case, it is essential to speak with a qualified immigration attorney who can explain how your immigration status will be impacted if you are convicted.

The Importance Of Hiring A Criminal And Immigration Law Attorney

Your California criminal conviction can directly impact whether you are deported and whether you can return to the United States in the future. Hiring an attorney with a strong understanding of federal and state criminal and immigration laws can significantly improve the outcome of your particular situation.

If you know you are at risk of criminal charges, please contact The Justice Firm locally at (310) 914-2444 or at our Toll-Free number at (866) 695-6714, or visit us on our website. Our immigration and criminal law attorneys are prepared to represent you using negotiation skills and preparing for trials. Our attorneys know the laws, and we are dedicated to advocating for your best interests so you can make the best decisions for your future.

Crimes That Can Lead To Deportation

When foreign visitors travel to the United States, the threat of deportation often looms in the background. Federal law has a lengthy list of crimes that, if an immigrant is convicted, must result in deportation. Immigrants can also be deported for other listed crimes, but courts have more discretion to decide whether deportation is part of the punishment of the conviction.

State-level and federal-level crimes can result in deportation, making it easier for the government to deport immigrants for low-level and more severe convictions. The crimes discussed below are not a complete list of crimes that can impact immigration status.

Crimes Of Moral Turpitude

Federal law states that immigrants shall be deported if convicted of “crimes of moral turpitude” (“CMT”). Unfortunately, the law does not define a CMT. Although courts can review criminal convictions on a case-by-case basis, CMTs are often described as morally depraved, vile, or severe acts. These types of crimes typically include:

  • Physically violent crimes, including murder, manslaughter, battery, and assault;
  • Sexual violence, including rape and sexual assault;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Specific theft crimes; and
  • Specific drug crimes.

If the crime was committed within five years of being admitted into the country, courts are more likely to find the crime a deportable offense. The courts are likely to consider these crimes as deportable offenses for permanent residents if the crime occurred within ten years of being admitted into the United States.

Finally, deportation for CMTs can result only if the possible prison sentence is at least a year or longer. This does not mean that the court’s actual sentence lasts a year or longer. It means that the sentence, under law, has the potential to last a year or longer.

Multiple Criminal Convictions For CMTs

Even if a CMT was committed five years after entering the United States or within ten years of becoming a permanent resident, courts could still deport immigrants who committed two or more CMTs. However, the CMTs must have occurred separately. Specifically, the CMTs cannot have happened from the same events of criminal activity. Unlike CMTs committed within the five or ten-year timeframe, courts may not necessarily deport the person convicted of the crimes.

Other Crimes Where Convictions Could Result In Deportation

California courts can decide whether to deport immigrants convicted of the following crimes:

  • Aggravated felonies;
  • High speed chases from immigration checkpoints; and
  • Failure to register as a sex offender.

Aggravated Felonies

Immigrants convicted of aggravated felonies can be deported regardless of when the crime was committed in the United States. Aggravated felonies can include crimes defined as aggravated felonies under federal or California law. Many of these crimes are similar to CMT crimes, but they can consist of additional crimes such as gun or drug trafficking, tax evasion, fraud, and passport counterfeiting.

Aggravated felonies can also include regular felonies that have aggravating factors, including:

  • No showing of remorse for victims;
  • Amount of harm to victims; and
  • Committing a crime when a child is present.

These factors allow what would otherwise be relatively low-level crimes, such as drug possession, to become deportable crimes. Because many felony convictions, even nonviolent convictions, can lead to deportation. Any person with immigrant status should contact a skilled criminal and immigration attorney who can advocate for their interests. If you have been charged or convicted of a felony or a crime determined to be a Crime of Moral Turpitude, don’t hesitate to get in touch with The Justice Firm locally at (310) 914-2444 or at our Toll-Free number at (866) 695-6714, or visit us at our website.

High Speed Chases At Immigration Checkpoints

Criminal convictions for using a vehicle to avoid or flee a federal or state officer at an immigration checkpoint can also result in deportation. This particular crime often occurs when an immigrant entering the United States quickly drives away at the checkpoint or tries to avoid the checkpoint altogether. However, federal law defines “high speed” as any speed above the legal speed limit. If you face this criminal charge and believe that your speed was reasonable, the law is not forgiving when federal or state officers claim that you fled or avoided the immigration checkpoint.

Drug Crimes

Unfortunately, drug convictions are often why immigrants are deported, even if the crime did not result in physical harm to any other person. Under federal law, deportation is possible regardless of when the crime occurred, and the rule applies to all controlled substances. Drug convictions can even include conspiracy and an attempt to commit a crime. If you face a possible drug conviction, you can be deported even if you have never come into contact with drugs.

Possession of marijuana is particularly damaging and unfair to immigrants. Possessing marijuana under California state law is legal, but possessing marijuana remains illegal under federal law. This means that, even if you are in California and possess marijuana, the federal government still has the authority to prosecute you for drug possession. This can be confusing and unfair to immigrants who may not understand the laws. Ultimately, the court has the authority to determine whether possession of marijuana results in deportation.

Federal law makes an exception for a single offense of marijuana possession if there are 30 grams or less and the marijuana is for personal use.

Domestic Violence, Stalking, And Crimes Against Children

Drug convictions, domestic violence, stalking, and crimes against children are often reasons immigrants are deported. Domestic violence crimes are broadly defined and can often include misdemeanor-level offenses. These incidences typically involve a spouse, current or former partners who live or have lived in the same home, or individuals who share a child. Even if the conviction resulted from one situation where both you and the other person involved made poor choices, the law allows for a single domestic violence conviction to lead to deportation.

Domestic violence crimes can also include violations of a protective order. If you have a protective order against you, contacting that person can result in a charge and conviction. This is true even if the other person contacted you first. Because domestic violence situations are particularly prone to charges and convictions, it is essential to have a qualified attorney who can advocate on your behalf.

Crimes against children typically include child abuse, neglect, abandonment, and even crimes committed in the presence of children.

Impact Of Deportation On Residency, Visas, And Re-Entering The United States

Deportation, regardless of the criminal conviction, usually results in losing residency and having a visa revoked. If convictions are for crimes of moral turpitude, the immigrant convicted is often permanently banned from re-entering the United States. For lesser crimes resulting in deportation, the government will usually place a temporary ban on immigrants’ ability to re-enter the United States.

Hiring A California Immigration Attorney

You do not need to face criminal charges and the risk of deportation alone. We strongly encourage you to contact The Justice Firm locally at (310) 914-2444 or at our Toll-Free number at (866) 695-6714 or visit us on our website. Our immigration attorneys are ready to review the facts of your case and advocate for you to remain in California. We serve clients in Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Ventura, and San Bernadino counties.

Learn more about immigration law.

Contact Information