Criminal convictions and immigration status

Facing criminal charges can be a serious matter for anyone. Defendants who are not U.S. citizens may also face immigration concerns in addition to other consequences in the event of a conviction.

Generally, an immigrant may face deportation and bans on future entry into the country based on convictions for so-called crimes involving moral turpitude. While the statute itself does not define a CIMT, rulings by federal courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals have clarified this issue in some respects, leaving others open to argument.

Fraud and violence

Broadly, CIMTs tend to include crimes that involve fraud and/or intentional serious bodily harm to someone else. Thus, the specific wording of a particular Texas criminal statute can make a great difference in terms of how immigration authorities may view a particular conviction.

Defining necessary level of intent

If the definition of a particular violent crime includes intent, it is more likely to be a CIMT. Murder, kidnapping and domestic violence are some examples of CIMT. On the other hand, a typical DWI, without additional factors, is generally not a CIMT as it does not involve intentionally violent conduct.

Fraudulent crimes likely to fall under CIMT include presentation of fake documentation to employers or authorities, various types of theft crimes and other conduct that includes intentionally misleading someone.

Gray areas may exist when a statute includes reckless, rather than intentional, conduct. Criminal recklessness has a greater chance of leading to a CIMT finding than criminal negligence.

Complications and exceptions

While these are just a few of the broad rules, there are many complex considerations that can affect a court’s ruling. For example, although most violence-based CIMT involve serious bodily harm, if the victim belongs to a protected class (such as a minor below the age of 17), a far lower degree of harm may suffice.

Do not wait until after conviction to confront this issue

Immigrants facing criminal charges can benefit from the help of a defense attorney with a thorough knowledge of potential immigration issues. An experienced lawyer can explain options and look for ways to avoid a conviction that may trigger immigration consequences.

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