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Crime Involving Moral Turpitude: Effect on Immigration Status

Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT) can -and more times than not do - have serious consequences on immigration status whether you are a doctor residing in Manhattan, a cab driver in Brooklyn or a stay at home mother anywhere in the State of New York or elsewhere. An individual convicted of a crime that qualifies as a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude is usually going to face the possibility of deportation or be ruled inadmissible when trying to enter the United States, become a permanent resident or obtain US citizenship. Simply, these are words no foreign national seeking residence, work or citizenship in the United States of America wants to hear nor any immigration attorney wants to explain to a client.

What is a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

Technically, a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude is a crime that involves “conduct that is inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.” Put another way, a CIMT shows a significant depravity of character. This sounds like a great definition, but when applied to actual cases, courts often have trouble defining what a CIMT is with any level of precision. This is one of many reasons why you need a seasoned and knowledgeable immigration attorney to fully analyze the allegations or criminal conviction to then ascertain how, if at all, they fall within the parameters of a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude.

At first glance, it sounds like only really bad crimes would constitute CIMT, such as murder, aggravated assault, child abuse and sexual assault. But other crimes that may seem less depraved, such as carrying a concealed weapon, can also be considered a CMT. Basically, each situation will have to be examined on a case-by-case basis to determine how a specific conviction or crime will be classified. However, crimes such as the violation of government regulations, simple assault and disorderly conduct will usually not be considered a CIMT for immigration purposes. In no way is the following an exhaustive or comprehensive list, but the following crimes found in the New York Penal Law are those that have been, are or can be deemed Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude:

Immigration Consequences of a Crime of Moral Turpitude

The exact immigration consequences of a CIMT conviction or arrest depend on a number of variables as explained briefly here and more detailed by your own immigration lawyer. These include any prior CIMT convictions or arrests, when the conviction or arrest occurred, the age of the individual at conviction and the length of the potential criminal sentence.

For example, if an individual has two CIMT convictions that occurred any time after entering the United States, they are subject to removal. However, if the two CIMT convictions arise out of the same underlying criminal conduct, then from an immigration standpoint, the individual will have only one CIMT conviction. Again, this is something to fully vet with both your criminal lawyer and immigration attorney.

Removal is also possible if there is only one conviction for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude. If the conviction occurred within five years of date of entering the United States and the conviction results in a potential criminal sentence lasting one year or more, then removal is possible. And it doesn’t matter how long a sentence the individual actually serves; all that matters is the length of the potential sentence.

For those trying to enter the United States or those who desire an adjustment of status, such as getting a Green Card, any CIMT conviction can serve as a bar to that goal. It doesn’t matter if the Crime Involving Moral Turpitude conviction occurred before or after the individual was granted entry to the United States. A single CIMT conviction in New York or any state can also jeopardize the chance for US citizenship because it can be used as evidence that the individual is not of good moral character. Finally, a conviction of a CIMT is not always required for an individual to be deemed inadmissible. If the individual has admitted to elements of a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude, there is potential for that individual to still be deemed inadmissible even without a plea. This reason alone makes it essential for any foreign national facing criminal prosecution discuss his or her case with an immigration attorney before making and admissions or accepting any plea bargains.

Potential Exceptions to the Consequences of a Crime of Moral Turpitude Conviction

There are two primary exceptions to the immigration repercussions of a CIMT conviction. The first is the petty offense exception. If an individual has just one CIMT conviction, with an accompanying sentence lasing six months or less (and the maximum possible sentence was a year or less), then the individual may be eligible for the petty offense exception.

The second exception is for youthful offenders. This option is available to those who have just one CIMT conviction that took place more than five years ago, were convicted in regular court (not juvenile court), and were under the age of 18 when committing the crime. Additionally, the prison or jail term, if any, must have also ended more than five years prior.

Only You Can Protect Yourself

The bottom line is that only you can take the steps to protect your future and status in the United States. If you do not want to face the reality that a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude is a devastating conviction or accepting a plea will potential eviscerate your life in America, by all means do so. If you have already pleaded and your concern is now merely minimizing your past so you can secure a Green Card, visa or citizenship, then an immigration attorney is vital to your pursuit.

Do not compound past mistakes. Protect yourself now and for your future. Saland Law’s immigration and criminal lawyers are here to assist you.

Call the New York immigration lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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