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What Charges Can Affect Immigration Status in California?

By San Diego Attorney on November 13, 2020

One of the biggest fears many San Diego residents have is being deported back to their home country, whether they are here illegally, on a green card, or have a visa. As such, many try their best to avoid criminal activities, which could jeopardize their immigration status in the United States. However, not all crimes can lead to deportation, and the courts must determine how to categorize a crime under immigration laws before a defendant can be deported.

When Is Deportation a Punishment?

Immigration is an extremely complex topic in the United States and California especially. Even with legal forms of immigration, such as visas and green cards, it is essentially a contract between the government and the immigrant. If that contract is violated, such as through criminal activity, the courts could choose to revoke that status and deport the immigrant. That being said, courts do acknowledge that certain crimes are more serious than others and tend to deport defendants in serious cases or for specific crimes. These crimes are broadly described under Section 237 of the Immigrant and Nationality Act (I.N.A.), which includes “Crimes of Moral Turpitude,” aggravated felonies, and various other crimes.

What Is a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

A Crime of Moral Turpitude (CMT) is a broad term that describes a variety of crimes that a court might find morally depraved, despicable, vile, or serious enough to stain the defendant’s reputation. While the court may review each crime on a case-by-case basis, common Crimes of Moral Turpitude include:

Generally, the courts will look at whether or not one of these crimes was committed within five years of entering the United States or if a defendant committed two or more crimes. However, these are not the only crimes that the court will consider when determining whether a defendant should be deported.

How Do Aggravated Felonies Affect Immigration Status?

Aggravated felonies are specific crimes that apply under immigration laws and may overlap with both federal and state crimes, whether they are felonies or misdemeanors. Like Crimes of Moral Turpitude, aggravated felonies have a broad definition, and can include:

  • Crimes that are always considered aggravated felonies;
  • Crimes that involve a sentence of more than one year (most felonies require a minimum of 16 months in jail); and
  • Crimes that involve a loss of $10,000 for the victim.

Aggravated felonies cover all of the crimes listed among the Crimes of Moral Turpitude above, but can also include:

  • Fraud
  • Perjury
  • Forgery
  • Distribution of child pornography
  • Grand theft
  • Bribery
  • Burglary

Additional Crimes

This list is not exhaustive, however, and there are other crimes that can result in a defendant being deported. The courts tend to consider deportation as a punishment when the crime involves some form of violence, such as domestic violence, stalking, or violating a protection order, or if the crime presents a perceived threat to society, such as intent to sell drugs or trafficking.

Ultimately, whether or not a defendant is deported will depend on the nature of his or her trial and the strength of his or her defense. Remember: every individual in the United States, whether here legally or not, has a right to a fair trial and should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Our firm always advises all non-U.S. Citizens to consult with an immigration attorney to discuss the consequences of their plea. We work with immigration attorneys to keep defendants fully advised of all their rights.

This means you do have a right to a lawyer and should not hesitate to contact a San Diego criminal defense attorney if you are charged with a crime. The legal team at jD LAW can explain the full consequences of a conviction and how to fight your charges. If you require strong legal aid in San Diego or North County, contact our firm at (760) 630-2000.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense

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James N. Dicks
jD LAW, P.C.

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