It is generally understood that when someone commits a crime, he or she is tried, convicted if enough evidence exists, and then goes to serve his or her sentence. However, if the defendant is an immigrant (documented or undocumented), then a criminal conviction can have further consequences which can, in certain circumstances, impede his or her ability to remain in the country. If you are a non-citizen accused of a crime, it is absolutely critical that you and your attorney understand what not to do in criminal matters.
Immigration Law is Severe
United States immigration law holds that in all but unusual situations, those who commit certain crimes are immediately rendered removable from the country. There are two types of crimes that will render a person removable. The first is called a crime of moral turpitude (CIMT), and the Immigration and Nationality Act holds that if a person commits two CIMTs in the period since his or her admission to the country, or if he or she commits one in his or her first five years in country where the maximum sentence is more than one year. It is important to understand that the maximum must be more than one year — it does not matter if the defendant received a lesser sentence; if the maximum is over 365 days, the defendant is deportable.
The second type of crime that will cause someone to be deportable is called an aggravated felony. However, the crime in question does not have to be either aggravated or a felony to count as such under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Also, conviction of an aggravated felony does not just make someone deportable; it also bars a lot of different kinds of potential relief. For example, cancellation of removal is not available to someone who has an aggravated felony conviction, because of their alleged poor moral character.
Plea-Bargains Can be a Problem
Because of the nature of so many offenses, it is critical that if you are a non-citizen accused of a crime, you must be prepared to turn down a plea-bargain if it could potentially place you in a position where you would be deported. You need an attorney who is willing and able to take potential immigration consequences into account instead of focusing solely on what may get the least jail time or the lowest fines, because sometimes pleading to a lesser offense can still result in someone being charged with an aggravated felony or crime of moral turpitude.
It is also important to understand that if you do wind up pleading to a crime that still makes you deportable, there are no waivers available from inside the country, unlike those which are sometimes obtainable for unlawful presence. A waiver of inadmissibility, which is what someone convicted of a crime and deported will usually require in order to re-enter the U.S., must be obtained abroad, which can keep someone apart from his or her family for a long time. The only way to truly avoid this situation is to ensure that you do not plead to a ground that makes you deportable and inadmissible.
Ask an Experienced Attorney
If you have been accused of a crime, and you are not a citizen of the United States, it is highly recommended to have an immigration attorney as well as a criminal attorney. The passionate Chicago deportation defense lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help answer questions and work to ensure that you have the best chance possible to stay in the United States. Call us today to set up a free consultation.
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