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Can You Get Deported for a Misdemeanor?

The United States government can deport any immigrant if they violate U.S. immigration laws. This applies to all immigrants, including:

  • Non-citizen green card holders
  • Naturalized U.S. citizens
  • Lawful permanent residents
  • Non-Immigrant visa holders

The most common violations that result in deportations are usually criminal convictions. Many can stem from misdemeanor criminal charges, including possession of controlled substances (drug crimes) and traffic offenses.

This article summarizes the basic facts about how a criminal conviction can affect your immigration status. But it does not replace the legal advice of an immigration attorney.

Can I Be Deported for a Misdemeanor?

Sometimes, depending on the seriousness of the crime, a misdemeanor could land you in removal proceedings. Courts look at the actual crime rather than its classification during their review of the offense. The judge will see if the crime falls under a deportable offense. Deportable offenses include crimes of "moral turpitude" and aggravated felonies.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Crimes of moral turpitude are not explicitly defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). But courts have stated that they include crimes that breach the people's and the country's trust. Thus, crimes involving theft and dishonesty are crimes involving moral turpitude. Some of the offenses that courts have classified as crimes of moral turpitude include:

  • Embezzlement
  • Perjury
  • Fraud
  • Assault
  • Shoplifting
  • Money laundering
  • Tax evasion

Aggravated Felonies

The Immigration and Nationality Act lists the crimes that are aggravated felonies under immigration law. These include:

  • Murder
  • Firearm offenses
  • Drug trafficking
  • Rape
  • Theft
  • Child pornography

It also includes other violent crimes where the penalty exceeds one year in jail. It is important to note that some crimes the INA lists as aggravated felonies are normally charged as misdemeanors. Some examples are theft, failure to appear in court under a court order, and certain crimes of violence. Petty offenses whose penalty does not exceed imprisonment of one year or more are categorized as an exception to crimes of moral turpitude.

This means if you only have one crime involving moral turpitude and the penalty does not exceed one year; the crime will not be grounds for deportation. But if you have been charged with more than one petty offense involving moral turpitude, you may be deported regardless of how short the sentence was.

Other Crimes That May Lead to Deportation

Section 237 of the INA has a complete list of crimes and other grounds that make an immigrant deportable, including:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Stalking
  • Human trafficking

Immigration laws are very tricky, particularly when it comes to criminal convictions. So it is vital to understand the laws and consult an attorney, especially before agreeing to sign any plea bargain.

Which Courts Handle Deportation for Criminal Convictions?

Both criminal and immigration courts handle these matters. If you're criminally convicted, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will also get involved. Cases involving deportation for a criminal conviction go before a judge in a criminal court. Portions will also be done in an immigration court before an immigration judge, called deportation proceedings. While misdemeanor crimes are not typically serious crimes, they still may be used as grounds for the removal of an immigrant from the United States.

Figuring out whether a criminal conviction will get you deported can be very complicated, especially since state and federal laws come into play. It's always a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you are concerned about a crime for which you may face charges or deportation. Regardless of severity, Criminal charges and convictions can have severe immigration consequences.

More Resources

Review the following for more information about laws and legal issues related to immigration and deportation:

Wondering What the Effects of a Criminal Conviction Are on Your Immigration Status? Consult an Attorney

The consequences of a criminal conviction can be serious. They can be particularly severe for immigrants. From time to time, a criminal conviction can result in deportation. Sometimes, it may also make you inadmissible to enter the United States or prevent you from naturalization. It is important to consult an immigration attorney to help you fight your deportation or see if you qualify for a waiver or cancellation of removal.

An immigration lawyer is always necessary when facing deportation for a criminal offense. Consult with an experienced immigration lawyer today. Regardless of their citizenship status, foreign nationals facing removal to their home countries are always advised to seek legal counsel.

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Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help with deportation or removal proceedings.

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