The Immigration Consequences Of Criminal Conduct

Criminal conduct in Colorado and other states is an inescapable reality. When that conduct is committed by people who are not U.S. citizens, the consequences can be quite severe and complex - including the possibility of deportation.

The most common outcome in criminal matters is that the accused accepts some type of plea bargain in which he or she pleads guilty to a lesser offense in order to avoid trial and the possibility of being found guilty of a more-serious crime. For U.S. citizens - regardless of whether they were born here or naturalized - this is not a problem because there are no additional immigration consequences on top of the criminal consequences. But accepting a plea can be a problem for those who are aliens in the U.S. - regardless of whether they are here legally (with a green card in most cases) or illegally. According to immigration law, any time a person pleads guilty to an offense - even in exchange for receiving a deferred judgment - that person opens themselves up to immigration consequences if the offense is of a certain type.

The most severe consequence is that a person may be deported. There are several types of crimes that make a person deportable. A guilty plea to any aggravated felony will make a person deportable, as will many crimes involving controlled substances, firearms, domestic violence, violation of a protection order and child abuse. Additionally, there are a huge class of crimes called "crimes of moral turpitude" (CIMT) that can make a person deportable. These include things like fraud or deceit, theft and sex offenses. Juvenile adjudications in Colorado are not considered to be convictions and, therefore, do not make a person deportable - unless, of course, a juvenile has been charged as an adult. Additionally, DUIs and DWAIs generally do not make people deportable.

In light of all this, there are a few best practices to follow. First off, any person who holds a green card should naturalize and gain their citizenship at their first opportunity. Remember - citizens are not deportable, regardless of what crimes they have committed. Second, all criminal activity should be avoided. Third, if you have been charged with a crime, be very careful before pleading guilty and understand the consequences of doing so.