Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions

Man climbing up a metal fence — immigration consequences of criminal convictions concept.

A criminal conviction can have serious consequences. But if you are a US immigrant, the results can be even more severe and may include denial of naturalization, exclusion from admission to the United States, or deportation. If you are an immigrant and have been charged with a crime, you and your lawyer must discuss how a criminal conviction could affect your immigration status.

Understanding How Criminal Charges Can Impact Immigration Status

Deciding to plead guilty to a crime is always a difficult decision. You and your lawyer must evaluate the uncertainties and risks of going to trial versus the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. In many cases, accepting a plea bargain will be in your best interest. You will know the charges to which you are pleading guilty and have more control over the outcome of your case and a better understanding of your potential sentence.

But if you are an immigrant, the consequences of a guilty plea can be even more severe, making the decision to plead guilty that much more difficult. In addition to the potential penalties that will be imposed after a guilty plea, you must understand how a guilty plea could impact your immigration status. Depending on the nature of the crime, you could face severe immigration consequences, including denial of naturalization, exclusion from admission to the United States, or deportation.

Padilla v. Kentucky Requires that Criminal Defense Lawyers Advise Clients of the Immigration Consequences of a Guilty Plea

In the 2010 US Supreme Court case of Padilla v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court ruled that criminal defense lawyers must advise noncitizens of the potential immigration consequences of criminal convictions. Failure to do so could constitute ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment.

Jose Padilla was a Vietnam War veteran and US resident of 40 years. He pled guilty to trafficking marijuana after his criminal defense lawyer assured him that the guilty plea would not affect his immigration status. However, under the law at the time, drug trafficking was considered an aggravated felony, which could lead to the deportation of a lawful permanent resident. The conviction also made Padilla ineligible for almost all forms of immigration relief. The Court ruled that, because the effects of deportation are so severe, deportation cannot be classified as a “collateral consequence” and found that the actions of Padilla’s lawyer were “constitutionally deficient, in violation of the Sixth Amendment.”

Following the Court’s decision in Padilla, if a lawyer fails to advise a noncitizen criminal defendant of the immigration consequences of a guilty plea, the defendant can seek postconviction relief, such as asking the court to vacate the judgment and allowing the defendant to enter a plea of not guilty on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel, modification of a criminal sentence, or a new trial.

Aggravated Felonies, Crimes of Moral Turpitude, and Drug Crimes Can Lead to Deportation

Under US immigration law, a conviction for certain categories of crimes carries specific immigration consequences.

Aggravated Felonies

Under Section 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, aggravated felonies can lead to mandatory deportation. Aggravated felonies include:

  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Sexual abuse of a minor
  • Drug trafficking
  • Kidnapping
  • Child pornography
  • Firearms trafficking
  • Money laundering in excess of $10,000
  • Fraud or tax evasion in excess of $10,000
  • Felony theft

Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT)

Crimes of moral turpitude involve acts that are inherently evil, go against moral laws, and are contrary to the duty people owe to one another. They include murder, rape, aggravated manslaughter, arson, theft, forgery, and fraud.

A conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can lead to significant adverse immigration consequences, including deportation.

Controlled Substances Crimes

A conviction for a crime involving a controlled substance can also lead to deportation.

Other Crimes That Lead to Deportation

Other categories of crimes that can lead to deportation include:

  • Crimes against children
  • Crimes of domestic violence
  • Firearm offenses
  • Crimes involving prostitution and commercialized vice

Deportation After a Withheld Plea or Expunged Offense

The issue of possible deportation is further complicated when adjudication of a guilty plea is withheld or when a criminal defendant has a criminal conviction expunged. Under US immigration law, a withheld adjudication is still considered a conviction and can lead to serious immigration consequences. Likewise, for immigration purposes, an expunged criminal conviction is still considered a conviction and can subject an immigrant to the most severe immigration consequences. An exception is when an immigrant defendant enters into a pre-trial diversion program and never admits guilt until the charges are dropped.

Contact The Lebedevitch Law Firm for Vigorous Defense Against Serious Criminal Charges

Any criminal case can have devasting consequences for the person charged and their family. But if you are an immigrant, the immigration consequences of criminal convictions can be even more severe.

If you are a non-US citizen and have been charged with a crime, it is crucial that you work with a criminal defense lawyer who will provide skillful legal representation and help you understand the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction.

The Lebedevitch Law Firm has experience defending people against the most serious criminal charges and has a proven record of obtaining successful results. We will help you evaluate the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and reach the best possible outcome.

The Lebedevitch Law Firm is based in Fairfield, Connecticut, and proudly defends people accused of crimes in Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Darien, Rowayton, Fairfield, Trumbull, Westport, Wilton, Weston, Danbury, New Haven, Bethany, Woodbridge, Milford, Stratford, Bridgeport, and throughout the State of Connecticut.

To learn more about The Lebedevitch Law Firm and how we can help, contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation.

Categories: Criminal Defense