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Criminal Immigration


Criminal charges are serious for anyone, particularly immigrants who may face removal (deportation) if they are convicted or, sometimes even if they are found to have committed an act for which they are not committed (i.e., please 'no contest' or similar). Those who are here in non-immigrant status may lose their chance to ever obtain green cards, and those who have their green cards may be in danger of losing their hard-earned status and being deported.

Therefore, whether you are trying to immigrate to the U.S., whether you have a green card and want to keep it or if you are trying to become a U.S. citizen, it is essential to know the effect of a criminal conviction or, at times, the implicatoin of guilt, on your immigration status. Convictions for the purposes of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are different than for the purposes of a criminal court. A period of probation or even a finding of facts sufficient to confirm a criminal act can result in an Order of Removal from the United States or denial of a naturaliation application. Before you plead guilty or the equivalent of 'no contest' to any criminal charge, it is essential to engage the services of an immigration lawyer who understands the impact of various criminal convictions to work with your criminal attorney. The two attorneys should confer on the various options available to you to determine how best to proceed in your criminal defense in light of the potetntial serious ramifications of a criminal conviction for even a relatively minor criminal charge..

Immigration has categorized two types of criminal acts and/or convictions that generally result in problems with Immigraton: Crimes of "Moral Turpitude" and "Aggravated Felonies".

Moral Turpitude
In general, any alien who has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, or admits to having committed such a crime, or admits to having committed acts which constitute the essential elements of such a crime, is inadmissible to the United States.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations (22 CFR 40.21(a)), a determination that a crime involves "moral turpitude" is based upon the prevalent moral standards in the United States. "Moral turpitude" has been defined as any act perofrmed which is contrary to justice, honesty, principle, or good morals, or an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a person owes to his or her fellow citizens or to society in general, whether or not it is punishable as a crime. (See In re Sloan, 12 I & N Dec 840 (1966, BIA); In re Awaijane, 14 I & N Dec 117 (1972, BIA)).

Aggravated Felonies
The term "aggravated felony" means any crime that is serious in nature, including but not limited to the following: Murder, rape, or sexual abuse of a minor; Drug, explosives or firearms trafficking; Money laundering; A crime of violence for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year; A theft offense (including a crime which involves receipt of stolen property) or burglary offense for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year; and Any other offense listed in INA 101(a)(43).

Merrill Cohen & Associates will do our best to help you overcome the negative effects of a criminal record on an immigration petition.
If you or a family member has a current criminal case pending, we can work to negotiate a sentence structure or a resolution of the criminal case so that it does not have a mandatory adverse effect on your immigration status.
If you or your family member's history includes a crime(s), we will reserach the situation and help you apply for a waiver, if appropriate, or take other appropriate action. Where it is warranted, we may petition the court where the verdict was rendered to re-open a past criminal conviction.


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