Even minor criminal and traffic charges can have immigration consequences much more severe than the penalty imposed for the crime itself. A minor conviction or plea that is punished by a fine only could result in you being deported, or denied entry to this country in the future. You can even be deported for a crime based on changes in the law that happen after the crime is committed. You are in particular danger if you have an outstanding warrant, if you may be incarcerated, or if you are charged with a crime involving drugs, fraud, or theft.
There are many details that go into immigration determinations based upon criminal convictions, far too many to discuss here, but there are some basic categories that are useful to understand. A single crime will often fall in to more than one of these categories.
Immigration Conviction Categories
Some of the most frequent things that make someone inadmissible or deportable are crimes that are considered crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT), aggravated felonies, and controlled substance offenses. These all have detailed rules that go with them, and some exceptions. The categories below are not exhaustive, and there are a number of other reasons that a crime could cause immigration problems.
Crime Involving Moral Turpitude
A crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) is, broadly speaking, a crime that indicate that you are an immoral person. Theft is generally a crime involving moral turpitude, but disorderly conduct is generally not. While this is a legal concept with a lot of governing rules and court decisions, one way to think of it is that someone that behaves in a disorderly manner might have done it for all sorts of reasons, perhaps because they were intoxicated. Theft on the other hand is an indication of lack of moral fiber. Drug possession would not normally be a CIMT, but drug distribution would. This is of course a very abbreviated description of what is or is not a CIMT, but it should give you some idea of what it means. CIMT’s should be assumed to cause immigration problems, including deportation, however, there are some exceptions. One of those exceptions is called the petty offense exception, that covers some CIMT’s with short sentences.
Aggravated felony is not a particularly understandable category, as it means something that fits one of a long list of things in the Immigration and Naturalization Act under that heading, so I will skip it here. Determining whether something is or is not an aggravated felony can be less than straightforward. Whether something is or is not an aggravated felony sometimes depends on the length of the sentence, including any suspended part. You should generally assume that an aggravated felony will make you deportable and/or inadmissible.
Controlled Substances Offense
A controlled substances offense is relatively easy to understand. It is any offense that relates to a controlled substance, otherwise known as an illegal drug. This would include drug paraphernalia, drug possession, drug distribution, and other related crimes. Here in Maryland we call illegal drugs CDS, short for controlled dangerous substances. There are some narrow exceptions, but in general you should assume that any drug offense will make you both inadmissible and deportable, even if it is not a CIMT or an aggravated felony.
There are certain things that do not help you avoid deportation or inadmissibility, even though they may not count as a conviction in Maryland. For example, a Maryland probation before judgment is a conviction for immigration purposes, even though it is not a conviction under Maryland law.
I can help you understand the immigration consequences of your actions, and make intelligent decisions regarding Maryland criminal offenses that can help you stay in the United States. I may be able to help you overturn any past Maryland convictions that may cause you to be deported or not admitted. If you are not a U.S. citizen and you have been charged with a crime, you need a lawyer. Call (301) 556‑8709 today so that we can get to work on your case.