Criminal convictions that affect a noncitizen include certain convictions that make a noncitizen inadmissible which include offenses considered Crimes involving moral turpitude (“CIMT”).   Criminal convictions that make a noncitizen deportable include CIMTs, aggravated felonies, controlled substance offenses, crimes of domestic violence and firearms offenses. Further discussion about the consequences created by these crimes will follow but note that certain crimes that may not make a noncitizen inadmissible or deportable may create other immigration related issues.

What are a Crimes involving moral turpitude? How can Crimes of Moral Turpitude Impact my Immigration Status?  What is a CIMT?

Crimes involving moral turpitude (“CIMT”), are not precisely defined under immigration law.  Immigration courts have attempted to give some guidance in attempting to identify these crimes stating that these types of crimes are crimes comprised of  behavior that is depraved or against the accepted morality standards and obligations between people who make up society. Although it is not always clear whether a state criminal conviction is considered a CIMT, this ambiguity serves to also provide the opportunity for argument that a state crime conviction does not contain elements comprising a CIMT.

Are there any crimes a noncitizen should be aware of could be considered CIMTs.

  • Theft offenses that require the intentional and permanent deprivation of property or under circumstances where the owner’s property rights are substantially eroded without the owner’s consent.
  • Fraud offenses such as crimes related to forgery or credit card fraud.
  • Some Obstruction of Justice type offenses containing a required element of “knowingly” providing false information with intent to prevent the apprehension or obstruct the prosecution or defense of any person.
  • Violence related offenses with the specific intent to do harm which likely include offenses where the use of a weapon is involved, there is likelihood of violent injury including threats of a violent injury.

This list does not include all potential CIMTs but should serve as list of crimes you could view as red flags for crimes commonly considered CIMTs.

What are the Immigration Consequences for noncitizens including Legal Permanent Residents?

As previously stated, a person admitted into the United States under some status including a legal permanent resident will be deportable placing at risk existing status by potentially having an immigration judge order the legal status taken away and ordering the noncitizen expelled or deported from the United States. A noncitizen can be considered deportable for a CIMT in one of two ways. 1) The noncitizen is convicted of a CIMT within five years after the date of admission and the conviction is potentially punishable by a sentence of one year or longer. 2) The noncitizen is convicted of two or more CIMTs at any time after admission into the United States.

Furthermore, a noncitizen convicted of two ore more CIMTs facing removal proceedings will be disqualified from seeking release from immigration detention custody while facing removal proceedings.

What are the Immigration Consequences for noncitizens attempting to enter the United States or living within the United States without status?

A noncitizen seeking physical admission into the United States or living in the United States without status, but seeking to change status to that of a legal permanent resident can be denied physical admission or denied changing of status to legal permanent resident because of the CIMT conviction. Fortunately, there are waivers that can waive the charge of inadmissibility depending on the personal circumstances of the noncitizen. A discussion of the waivers of charges of inadmissibility can be found by clicking here. Additionally, there is a sort of automatic waiver built in under immigration law where the noncitizen will be automatically forgiven of the conviction if the conviction occurred when the noncitizen was under 18 years of age and the noncitizen was released from custody more than five years before the date of application for admission into the United States or the maximum penalty possible for the conviction did not exceed imprisonment for one year and the noncitizen was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of six months.

A noncitizen convicted of a CIMT living in the United States without status that is placed in removal proceedings will be disqualified from a form of relief from removal known as Cancellation of Removal for certain non-legal permanent residents. Information for Cancellation of Removal for non-Legal Permanent Residents can be found by clicking here.

Furthermore, a noncitizen living in the United States and facing removal proceedings for not possessing legal status will disqualified from seeking release from immigration detention custody based on a conviction considered to be a CIMT.

What can an immigration attorney do for someone convicted of a CIMT?

Many government agents and government attorneys fail to properly diagnose whether a state conviction is a CIMT and improperly charge a noncitizen with committing a CIMT.  As a result, it is important to understand that not all cases that are being affected by a CIMT finding by the government may have actually been convicted of CIMT. For example, many state laws defining a crime may appear to be a  CIMT, but may not actually be a CIMT because the state statute the criminal conviction is based on maybe missing one or more important elements that takes it out of the realm of a CIMT. As a result, only an experienced immigration attorney possesses the skills and ability to properly read and understand state and federal law with the ability to  interpret these laws to effectively determine whether a state criminal conviction is a CIMT and hopefully present an effectual argument before the respective immigration agency or court demonstrating that the noncitizen has not been convicted of a CIMT. Due to the complex nature of CIMTs and the potentially severe consequences a CIMT could result, the exercise in identifying a CIMT should be left to one of our experienced immigration attorneys and should not be attempted by anyone including attorneys that are not experienced in immigration law.

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