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The Impact of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude on Immigration Status

Crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT) are acts that go against society’s accepted ethical standards. This includes offenses like fraud, theft, prostitution, and certain violent acts. Unfortunately, for non-citizens trying to enter the United States or maintain their current status, these crimes can severely impact their immigration dreams. Anyone in this situation must remember that just because they may be charged with a CIMT does not mean they will automatically face deportation. A lawyer can help fight charges and potentially mitigate the consequences of a CIMT.

At Deandra Grant Law, we fight aggressively to protect our clients’ rights in Dallas. Schedule a consultation by calling us at (214) 225-7117 or contacting us online.

What Are Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude?

Crimes involving moral turpitude, commonly called CIMTs, are not defined in either federal or immigration laws. Instead, they are judged by the shock they cause to the public conscience. They reflect a level of depravity that society finds reprehensible and in opposition to accepted norms of morality.

These offenses range from fraud and deceitful activities to aggression and more severe crimes like murder. No matter the offense committed, those convicted of CIMTs often face serious legal ramifications such as deportation or ineligibility for certain visas.

What Crimes Are Considered CIMTs?

Determining whether an offense is a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) isn't always straightforward. While state and federal statutes have many specific categories of crimes, a definitive list of offenses classified as CIMTs does not exist. Because of this, it's up to the courts to decide.

When ruling on whether a crime is a CIMT, a judge may look at the elements that make up the particular violation to decide if it matches a generic federal offense. The structure of the crime itself matters more than the behavior that led to it being committed. Furthermore, judges may also examine each element of a divisible statute separately if needed to determine if it qualifies as a CIMT.

Various offenses can be categorized as CIMTs, including the following:

How Can CIMTs Affect Immigration Opportunities?

A conviction for or admission of guilt to a crime involving moral turpitude can cause a non-U.S. citizen to be inadmissible or deportable.

Inadmissibility means that a person not legally admitted to the U.S. would be ineligible for certain immigration statuses or opportunities. For instance, their green card or visa application could be denied.

A CIMT may cause a non-citizen to be inadmissible if the individual is convicted of or admits to committing the offense. Inadmissibility can happen regardless of when the crime occurred or how many violations the defendant allegedly committed.

Two exceptions to the inadmissibility rule exist:

  • Juvenile exception: A non-citizen may not be inadmissible if they were under 18 when they allegedly committed the offense and the incident happened more than 5 years in the past.
  • Petty offense exception: A CIMT will not lead to inadmissibility if the defendant was sentenced to 6 months or less for a crime carrying a possible sentence of no more than 1 year of incarceration.

The other consequence of a CIMT for a non-U.S. citizen is deportation, which applies to individuals lawfully admitted to the U.S. through a green card, visa, or other forms of immigration relief. An individual may be deportable only if convicted of a CIMT – admitting to the crime is not enough to justify action.

Below are the two situations in which a person could be removed from the U.S.:

  • The conviction occurred within 5 years of the individual’s admission to the U.S. However, if they are a lawful permanent resident, the timeframe is 10 years. Also, the offense must carry a possible prison term of at least 1 year.
  • The person was convicted of two or more CIMTs. In this case, it does not matter when the offenses happened.

How a Lawyer Can Help Fight Charges

A CIMT can severely impact a non-U.S. citizen’s future. That is why those charged with crimes should reach out to a criminal defense lawyer about their case. Their attorney can explain the immigration consequences of a conviction and legal options that can be explored to avoid or minimize penalties.

To discuss your case with one of our Dallas lawyers, contact Deandra Grant Law at (214) 225-7117 today.