Is Your Citizenship Status At Risk Because of An Arrest?

California is known for its year-round sunny skies and world-leading industries such as the entertainment industry in Hollywood and the tech industry in Silicon Valley. It’s no surprise then that an estimated 10 million immigrants reside here—more than any other state in the nation. However, the allure of California is a double-edged sword for immigrants—the state takes a no-nonsense approach to crimes committed by non-citizens. Ultimately, this means that conviction of certain crimes can result in your deportation.


A “Legal Alien” is the classification given to an immigrant who entered into the U.S. with express permission by the United States government. Within this category are Legal Permanent Residents (also known as “Green Card Holders”), Visa holders, and Asylees/Refugees.

Regardless of the sub-category, a Legal Alien is subject to the decisions of Immigration Court, which is separate from the Criminal Court. For example, if you are convicted of certain crimes in Criminal Court, the Immigration Court may rule to deport you, which is why it’s so important to have a criminal defense attorney that can prevent the conviction in the first place. The following is a list of offenses for which an immigration judge may choose to deport you:

A.    Aggravated Felonies

8 USC § 1101(a)(43) defines aggravated felonies as those crimes that are punishable by a jail sentence of at least one calendar year (365 days). Conviction of an aggravated felony brings the most severe punishments possible under immigration laws. The conviction causes deportability and moreover bars eligibility for almost any kind of relief or waiver that would stop the deportation. Common examples include:

·      Burglary

·      Fraud

·      Murder

·      Rape

·      Theft

B.    Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

8 USC §1227(a)(2)(A)(i) states that a noncitizen is deportable for just one conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude if she committed the offense within five (5) years of her last “admission” into the United States, and if the offense carries a potential sentence of one year. Classification of a crime involving moral turpitude is based on the elements of the offense, not the facts of the case. Generally, an offense involves moral turpitude if it contains elements of:

·      Fraud

·      Theft

·      Intent to cause great bodily harm

·      Lewdness

·      Recklessness; or

·      Malice

C.   Drug Offenses

Under 8 USC § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i), conviction of any offense “relating to” controlled substances, or attempt or conspiracy to commit such an offense, may cause deportability. Furthermore, 8 USC § 1101(a)(43)(B) states that a controlled substance offense can be an aggravated felony if:

·      It is an offense that meets the general definition of trafficking, such as sale or possession for sale; or

·      For immigration purposes, if it is a California non-trafficking offense that is comparable to certain federal felony drug offenses, such as simple possession, cultivation, or some prescription offenses.

D.   Domestic Violence/Child Abuse

According to 8 USC § 1227(a)(2)(E), a “crime of domestic violence” is a violent crime committed against a person with whom the defendant has a certain kind of domestic relationship. A noncitizen is deportable if, after admission to the U.S., he is convicted of:

·      A state or federal “crime of domestic violence”

·      Stalking

·      Child Abuse

·      Neglect; or

·      Abandonment.

Furthermore, the person is also deportable if found in civil or criminal court to have violated certain sections of a domestic violence protective order.

E.    Firearms Offenses

Under 8 USC § 1227(a)(C), a noncitizen is deportable if at any time after admission into the U.S. he is “convicted under any law of purchasing, selling, offering for sale, exchanging, using, owning, possessing or carrying or of attempting or conspiring to [commit these acts] in violation of any law, any weapon, part or accessory which is a firearm or destructive device…” This means that even possession of an unregistered weapon can trigger deportability. Furthermore, a firearm offense can also count as an aggravated felony if it involves trafficking.