U.S. immigration law defines a crime of moral turpitude (CIMT) as being a crime involving conduct that shocks the public conscience, and is “contrary to the rules of morality.” In immigration law, being convicted of a CIMT can render someone deportable. The only way to avoid deportation in such a situation is either to seek a waiver or to avail oneself of what is called the petty offense exception. The exception is not well understood, but it can be very helpful in some immigration cases.
The category of crimes of moral turpitude came into being only within recent memory, and there is no specific written definition of a CIMT within U.S. immigration law. It has been described in various cases as “being inherently base, vile, or depraved” and shocking the public conscience. A variety of crimes from murder to kidnapping to fraud have been classified as CIMTs, and given the vagueness of the law and the definition, it can be quite difficult at times to determine whether you have in fact committed a CIMT or not.
It is important that you not confuse a CIMT with an aggravated felony, as the two have different consequences. Any alien (aside from refugees and asylees) that has been convicted of an aggravated felony is immediately inadmissible to the U.S. and rendered deportable, regardless of immigration status. Aggravated felonies are much more specific (and actually enumerated in law), and there is very little relief to be gained if you are convicted of one. Many aggravated felonies have no waiver possible, which is not the case with crimes of moral turpitude.
Normally, if you are found guilty of a CIMT, you will need to apply for a waiver in order to overcome inadmissibility and/or deportability. However, if your crime falls under the petty offense exception, no waiver is necessary. The exception is available for those who fit three criteria, listed in the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA):
It is important to keep in mind that whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony is irrelevant; the only criteria that are relevant are the three from the INA. The offense does not apply to any drug conviction, regardless of severity, but for other crimes, it is not unheard of for misdemeanors to have more stringent sentences (over 1 year), depending on the nature of the offense. If this is the case with yours, the petty offense would not apply. It is best to double-check on the information for your conviction before going forward.
One mistake should not have the power to ruin lives. If you have been convicted of a crime, but you believe the petty offense exception might apply to your case, contacting a dedicated Chicago deportation defense lawyer is a good idea. The experienced attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC will sit down with you and try to help you decide how best to proceed. Call us today at 630-932-9100 for a free consultation.
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