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Crimes of Moral Turpitude: What You Should Know

 Posted on July 02, 2014 in Immigration

achieve immigration, crimes of moral turpitude, deportation, Illinois immigration attorney, immoral act, Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices, moral turpitude, waiver of inadmissibilityMany people who apply for visas or achieve immigration status in the U.S. do not realize that it is not necessarily permanent. Even green cards can be revoked if the holder is found to have committed a crime of moral turpitude. However, the definition of that term is murky. It is important to have a good attorney who can help you navigate the confusing maze of terms and paperwork.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

A crime of moral turpitude (CMT) has been defined as a “depraved or immoral act.” More narrowly, it has been defined as a crime involving force, deception or theft; something morally reprehensible, as well as against the law. Examples of CMTs include rape, murder, felony assault, robbery, fraud and forgery, though this list is not exhaustive.

If you have committed a CMT and you are deemed removable, it will render you either inadmissible or deportable, depending on your immigration status when you are convicted. The distinctions are important, as inadmissibility is usually punished by a shorter-term bar to re-entry than deportability (inadmissibility bars can go up to 10 years, while deportability bars can go up to 20). Not every CMT will render you removable. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) specifies the circumstances.

The INA sets out the circumstances in which a CMT will trigger inadmissibility or deportability. They are:

  • A non-citizen committing a CMT less than 5 years after admission, which results in a sentence of more than one year; and
  • A non-citizen convicted of two or more CMTs not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct.

A “single scheme of criminal misconduct” means a single larger enterprise. For example, if a non-citizen kidnapped a young woman and later murdered her, he would have committed two crimes within a larger enterprise. The kidnap and the murder would be closely related. Thus, he would have committed only one CMT for purposes of deportability.

While both situations will result in removability within the appropriate time frame, the circumstances are different if a crime is committed more than 5 years after admission. If a non-citizen commits a CMT more than 5 years after admission, it may not immediately trigger removal proceedings. In such a situation, the immigration judge’s discretion usually prevails. However, if a non-citizen is convicted of two or more CMTs that are not part of a single scheme of criminal misconduct, he is always rendered removable, regardless of how long they have been in the U.S. or how far apart the crimes were.

Sometimes, a non-citizen may be able to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility under Sec. 212 of the INA. Certain crimes of moral turpitude may be able to be excused in this fashion, such as prostitution-related offenses or minor drug possession. To obtain a waiver, one must:

  • Not be a threat to national security in the opinion of the immigration judge;
  • Have lived within the U.S. for at least seven years; and
  • Have never committed an aggravated felony.

An aggravated felony is not the same as a CMT. An aggravated felony may be a CMT, but a CMT is not necessarily an aggravated felony. For example, possession of a minor amount of drugs may be a CMT, but since it is neither violent nor necessarily deceptive, it would likely not be an aggravated felony. If you have committed an aggravated felony, there is very little you can do to avoid deportation.

Contact an Attorney for Help

If you have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, we can help. Contact the DuPage County firm of Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices today for a consultation.

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