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How Your Immigration Status Can Complicate Your Criminal Case

Many legal residents and undocumented immigrants do not understand the significant impact of their immigration status on their criminal case. Because certain criminal convictions can result in removal or exclusion from the U.S., criminal cases involving those with immigration issues must be handled differently than other types of cases. Some plea agreements that would be highly desirable if one were a citizen can result in severe adverse immigration consequences – even those involving misdemeanors.

Pennsylvania crimes that may result in deportation and exclusion from entry

Certain types of criminal offenses may result in permanent exclusion from the U.S. and other significant immigration consequences, including:

  • Aggravated felonies
  • Multiple convictions (even misdemeanors)
  • Moral turpitude crimes

The federal government aggressively pursues removal and exclusion of those convicted of these types of crimes. The immigration impact of a criminal conviction is particularly significant because President Obama has focused immigration law enforcement efforts on those with criminal records. When considering a potential plea agreement, a defendant should be aware that there is no exception to prevent removal for certain types of criminal convictions based on the hardship created for family members.

Because no comprehensive list of crimes exists of the offenses that fall into these categories, it can be extremely complicated to determine whether a particular conviction will have a negative impact on immigration opportunities and benefits. Generally, a crime that results in a sentence of over a year of incarceration may be considered an aggravated felony. Crimes of moral turpitude have been described as crimes act of baseness, vileness or depravity. Some examples of crimes that may be problematic include:

  • Sex crimes including prostitution related offenses
  • Serious felonies like armed robbery, burglary, arson, murder and similar offenses
  • Firearms offenses
  • Narcotics crimes
  • Crimes of domestic violence (DV)

Wide array of immigration consequences resulting from a criminal record

If a person is convicted of these types of criminal offenses, there is a wide range of immigration consequences that may result, including but not limited to the following:

  • Potential ban on all future entry into the U.S.
  • Disqualification from the benefits of asylum or naturalization
  • Negative determination of “good moral character” when applying for citizenship
  • Bar on ability to choose voluntary departure
  • Ineligibility for suspension of deportation

Undocumented residents face unique challenges, such as immigration holds upon release from jail and removal or exclusion from entry into the U.S. If you have immigration questions or issues, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you regarding your rights and options given your immigration status.

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