Immigration Consequences of Criminal Pleas
Any individual who is not a U.S. Citizen, and who has been charged with a crime, needs to carefully consult with Criminal Defense attorney regarding the consequences of pleading to a crime in Pasco County. The Department of Homeland Security has substantially focused its resources on enforcement efforts and deportations are at an all-time high.
It is important to be aware that under INA section 101(a)(48) a “conviction” for immigration purposes can be an adjudication of guilt, or a withhold of adjudication if a judge (or jury) finds the Defendant guilty, or sufficient facts have been admitted to warrant a finding of guilt, and, some form of punishment, penalty or restraint on the alien’s liberty has been ordered by the Court.
You should be aware that some form of punishment, penalty or restraint on liberty is impossible to avoid as there are mandatory fines with any conviction, and this is deemed a penalty. In addition, even PTI (Pre Trial Intervention) could potentially have adverse consequences for a foreign national if the PTI agreement requires some admission of guilt. This could have an impact on an individual’s ability to naturalize, apply for immigration benefits, or obtain a visa at a consulate abroad. If you are charged with a crime, you must consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
Crimes that trigger inadmissibility under INA 212 (a)(2) are: crimes involving moral turpitude (not clearly defined but involving some level of reckless intent, fraudulent intent, theft and some crimes of violence); controlled substance violations (other than 30 grams or less of marijuana); two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentences to confinement were five years or more; and, “reason to believe” a non-citizen is a drug trafficker.
However, one conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude will not trigger immigration consequences if the maximum penalty did not exceed one year of confinement, and the client was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment greater than six months.
INA 237 (a)(2) provides criminal grounds for removability that include:
- Conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude within five years of the date of admission, if a sentence of one year or longer could have been imposed;
- Conviction at any time after admission of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude not arising out of a single scheme of criminal conduct, regardless of sentence;
- Any violation of law relating to a controlled substance;
- Any firearms offense;
- Domestic violence, stalking or child abuse convictions.
Aggravated felonies will render the individual deportable, will bar them from virtually every form of immigration relief, and will trigger mandatory detention with no eligibility for bond. Aggravated felonies include:
- Trafficking in controlled substances;
- Crimes of violence where the term of prison imposed was at least one year;
- Theft or burglary where the term of imprisonment was at least one year;
- Crimes involving fraud or deceit where the loss to the victim exceeds $10,000.00;
- And many others too numerous to list.
It is important to be aware that your status on a temporary visa, or as a lawful permanent resident does not prevent the deportation and removal consequences for criminal convictions in the above circumstances.