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Criminal convictions and immigration status

In addition to resulting in specific legal penalties, a criminal conviction can have far-ranging consequences for a person’s life. If you are not a United States citizen, convictions for certain types of offenses can affect your immigration status and trigger removal proceedings.

For many, the immigration consequences of a conviction can be more severe than the legal penalty itself. It is important to thoroughly explore your options and strategies when facing criminal charges.

Qualifying convictions

Crimes that can result in actions such as denial of applications or deportation generally belong to one of three categories: crimes of moral turpitude, crimes specifically stated in the Immigration and Nationality Act, and serious felonies. In this context, a conviction does not just mean a guilty verdict. A guilty or no-contest plea can have the same effect, as can several types of alternative disposition or deferred adjudication where one of the requirements is admitting to committing a crime. Therefore, what may look like a good deal to someone else can jeopardize your immigration status.

Moral turpitude

The question of what constitutes a crime of moral turpitude can involve a high degree of complexity. Generally, courts take it to mean a crime involving dishonesty or the intent of harm to another person. When deciding whether a specific offense falls into this category, the particular wording of the relevant statute can make a great deal of difference, especially when it comes to the issue of defining the type of intent involved. Even a generally low-level crime can fall into this category.

Serious felony

In Florida, a serious felony is typically a crime that receives the designation of aggravated felony. Many people do not realize that some types of misdemeanors can also fall into this category, depending on the sentence, not on the initial charges. This tends to occur more frequently for offenses such as DUI or domestic violence.


If you had a state or federal conviction expunged at some point, be sure to discuss this issue with your attorney. There may be several factors that affect whether or not this offense is likely to affect your status.


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