How Can Criminal Convictions Affect a Person’s Immigration Status?

 Posted on May 24,2024 in Criminal Defense

Hartford, CT criminal defense attorneyPeople who are arrested and charged with crimes may be affected in many ways. A criminal conviction can result in numerous penalties and collateral consequences, including fines, jail time, probation, the loss of a professional license, limits on personal freedom, and much more. The stakes of criminal cases can be especially high for immigrants, and certain types of convictions can lead to deportation. An experienced attorney can provide guidance on the best ways to address these issues, defend against criminal convictions, and minimize the consequences a person may face.

Deportable Crimes

There are a number of different offenses that may cause an immigrant to be deemed “deportable.” A person who is in the United States on a temporary, non-immigrant visa or who is a lawful permanent resident with a Green Card may be deportable because of convictions for offenses such as:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude: This broad category of offenses includes crimes that people may consider to be shocking or depraved. They may include violent crimes or sex crimes, as well as fraud or other financial crimes that allegedly caused people to suffer harm. In general, crimes involving moral turpitude that were committed within five years after an immigrant initially entered the U.S. will cause a person to be deportable if a conviction resulted in a sentence of at least one year in prison. Two or more convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude committed at any time after entering the United States may also result in deportation.

  • Drug crimes: Any offenses involving the possession, distribution, or trafficking of controlled substances may cause a person to be deportable. The only exception is for a single offense involving possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. A person may also be deportable if they are addicted to drugs. 

  • Domestic violence: A person may be deported if they are convicted of crimes involving violence against a spouse, former spouse, child, or another member of their family or household. Convictions for child abuse, neglect, or abandonment or violations of protective orders may also result in deportation.

  • Weapons charges: Offenses involving purchasing, possessing, exchanging, carrying, or using firearms or explosives in violation of the law may cause a person to be deportable.

  • Aggravated felonies: These include specific offenses listed by immigration officials, such as kidnapping, human trafficking, child pornography, forgery, counterfeiting, bribery, or obstruction of justice.

Notably, the state of Connecticut recently changed its laws to limit the maximum sentence for Class A misdemeanors to 364 days. Under federal laws, convictions with sentences of one year or more may be deemed felonies, making a person who is convicted of these offenses more likely to be deported. Connecticut’s current laws help ensure that people convicted of misdemeanors will be less likely to face deportation.

An Example of Deportation on Criminal Grounds

Criminal convictions can have a huge impact on a person’s immigration status, even if crimes occurred many years in the past. One example in which a previous conviction resulted in deportation involves Samuel Anthony, who was brought to the United States from Sierra Leone when he was seven years old. Unfortunately, he experienced difficulties, including sexual abuse, and he began using drugs as a teen and selling drugs to support his addiction. 

Samuel was initially arrested and charged with drug possession with intent to distribute in 1991. In 1996, he was convicted of a drug crime for the third time and sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison. He was released in 2010, but since his Green Card had been revoked following his conviction, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiated deportation proceedings. After being held in detention by ICE, he was released in 2012 because travel arrangements could not be made for his return to Sierra Leone. After his release, he worked to put his life back together, reestablish relationships with his family members, and maintain employment. However, in 2019, he was suddenly taken into custody by ICE and deported after travel authorization became available.

Samuel is currently living in Sierra Leone, where he does not speak the most common language, does not understand the country’s culture, and has struggled to find a job. He is working to obtain authorization to return to the United States, but he and his family are facing an uphill battle.

Contact Our Hartford Criminal Defense Lawyer

Samuel Anthony’s story illustrates the importance of legal representation for immigrants who are charged with crimes. In many cases, immigrants may not fully understand how criminal convictions could affect their immigration status. With the help of an attorney, people in these situations can determine their best legal options, and they can take steps to prevent convictions or other issues that could potentially lead to deportation. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we work with clients to defend against criminal charges, helping them resolve their cases successfully while protecting their rights. To learn how our Connecticut criminal defense attorney can assist with these matters, contact us at 860-290-8690 and arrange a free consultation.

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