Immigration Consequences Of Criminal Convictions
Criminal convictions can carry very heavy immigration consequences. A criminal conviction can lead to an arrest by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, detention, revocation of status, and removal. First, it must be determined whether or not contact with law enforcement resulted in a conviction. Convictions include: being sentenced by a judge or jury to jail time or some form of punishment, pleading guilty or nolo contendre to a charge, or received a suspended sentence. There are also situations that might not appear to be convictions but for immigration purposes are. The area where this confusion is most common is deferred adjudication or diversion programs. Some of these programs require the defendant enter a plea of guilty at the start which will be removed if the program is completed successfully. For immigration purposes, the initial guilty plea is enough to count as a conviction even if the program is successfully completed and it is later withdrawn. Before agreeing to a program like this it is important to consult with a criminal attorney and an immigration attorney. Immigration law also does not recognize expungements. Even if you have had a criminal conviction erased from state records it will still count against you as a conviction for immigration purposes.
Immigration law also treats some crimes differently than criminal law does. Certain crimes are called Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT). These crimes can range from what seem like minor offenses such as a petty theft, to serious crimes like murder. CIMTs can have particular consequences for immigration purposes, but there are also special exceptions for some CIMTs. Immigration also uses a much broader definition of what types of crimes are considered “aggravated felonies” than the criminal law. Aggravated felonies under the immigration definition have very serious consequences such as loss of legal permanent residency, detention and removal. To determine if anything in your criminal history is a CIMT or an aggravated felony you should speak with an experienced immigration attorney.
In 2010 the Supreme Court decided that criminal attorneys have a constitutional duty to inform their clients of the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. Failure to inform the foreign national client of immigration consequences could be grounds for overturning the conviction.