Immigrating to the United States is a dream for many people; however, arrival in this country is only the first step in a lengthy process towards citizenship. Before reach the goal of citizenship, individuals are subject to particularly stringent penalties if convicted of a crime. A criminal defense attorney experienced in immigration law advises that anyone seeking citizenship must understand the law to avoid any potential of deportation.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

An attorney who has dealt extensively in criminal defense work indicates that anyone residing in the United States with a green card who is seeking citizenship can face deportation if they are charged with certain types of crime, one of which is the category known as “crimes of moral turpitude.” These are offenses that demonstrate poor moral value and behavior and may indicate a person less likely to follow the laws of this country as a citizen.

Some of the acts in this classification include crimes involving dishonesty, such as fraud, larceny, or intent to harm a person or property. An attorney who handles criminal defense work notes that DWI/DUI is considered a crime of moral turpitude, as is assault with intent to kill or rob a person, spousal or child abuse, and theft. Drug crimes, certain weapons charges, stalking, sex crimes, and many other offenses also fall into this particular category.

Non-citizens can face harsh judgment if charged with any of these crimes. While working with an experienced criminal defense attorney may help, these convictions may still lead to deportation. Petty crimes that are defined as ones punishable by one year or less in jail can be excusable; however an immigrant apprehended committing any crime at all is at a great risk of removal from this country no matter how long a resident here.

Offenses That May Cause Deportation

A criminal defense attorney states it is important for an immigrant to understand offenses that could lead to deportation and what the court takes into consideration when determining if a person should be deported. There are two basic circumstances when deportation is considered after committing a crime of moral turpitude:

  • First Five Years – If a crime is committed within the first five years of residence in the United States, beginning from legal arrival in the country, they may be immediately deported.

  • After First Five Years – Beyond the initial five years of residency, immigrants can still be deported if they commit two separate crimes at any time, regardless the amount of time between the two.

A person who holds a green card but is not yet a citizen can be deported under these circumstances without regard for their reason for being in the country.

Defense Against Deportation

Occasionally, an immigrant may be able to fight charges that could lead to deportation or obtain a waiver preventing deportation. A criminal defense attorney may indicate that this option is only available for those who have not committed an aggravated felony, are not deemed a threat to national security, and have been living in the country at least seven continuous years. Again, these are only some of the considerations in obtaining leniency.

Immigrants to the United States who have been accused of a crime are in jeopardy of deportation, especially if the crime is considered to be one of moral turpitude. To explore defense options and avoid harsh penalties, an accused immigrant should review their circumstances with an experienced criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable about current immigration laws and how they apply to individual cases.

Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520
(956) 202-0067

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