In a recent blog post, we summarized the types of collateral consequences of a criminal conviction in Pennsylvania. One of them is the possibility that a defendant who is not a U.S. citizen can get deported if they get convicted of certain offenses.
One of the most important types of criminal offenses that can lead to deportation is a “crime of moral turpitude.”
Types of Crimes that Can Lead to Deportation
Whether a criminal conviction can lead to deportation is actually an immigration law issue, not a criminal defense issue. However, because it comes up so often in criminal defense cases and because it can be one of the most important consequences of a conviction, criminal defense attorneys have to be familiar with how it works.
Because immigration law is federal, rather than state, law, it is 8 USC § 1227 that lists the types of criminal offenses that make a defendant deportable. That statute is a part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and lists the following types of offenses:
- Crimes of moral turpitude
- Subsequent convictions
- Aggravated felonies
- Drug crimes
- Gun crimes
- Domestic violence or crimes against children
Unfortunately, the Act does not simply list specific offenses. This is partially due to the fact that it is a federal law, while most crimes are state laws. Because of the crossover from federal to state law, there can be a serious dispute over whether a particular criminal charge under state law could make a defendant deportable under federal immigration law.
Crimes of Moral Turpitude
One of the most important types of crime that can lead to deportation is a “crime of moral turpitude.” To be potentially deportable offenses, a conviction has to be:
- Within five years of entering the U.S. (or 10 years if the defendant has lawful permanent resident status), and
- Punishable with over a year in jail.
What constitutes an offense of “moral turpitude,” though, is not always clear. Factors include whether the crime involved:
- Intent to harm someone
This makes some offenses clear crimes of moral turpitude, like theft, burglary, assault, or rape. However, offenses like driving under the influence (DUI) fall into a gray area. Prosecutors often try portraying the decision to drive while under the influence of alcohol as a reckless act that amounts to a sufficient intent to harm someone to justify deportation.
Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Whether a criminal charge can lead to the defendant's deportation can drastically alter how to best respond. Non-citizens with families in the U.S. and strong ties to their communities usually have a much stronger urge to take their case to trial rather than enter into a plea deal that could keep them out of jail, but end with their deportation.
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who serves the accused in Philadelphia. Contact him online or call his law office at (215) 535-5353 if you have been accused of committing a crime and are concerned that your immigration status might get caught up in the affair.