Can a theft offense affect your immigration status? –

In both New York and New Jersey there are several criminal offenses that are related to theft.

While each state has a different legal term for theft, the offense amounts to taking property from another person with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the property.  In other words, theft is stealing.

In New York stealing that does not involve violence is called larceny, while New Jersey’s criminal code calls it theft.

There are various theft offenses that are based on the value of the property stolen.

When the theft is minor, meaning that the value of the property is relatively low, the theft is a simple theft, and the punishment is comparatively light.

If the value of the property is substantial, then the theft will be deemed more serious and the resulting punishment more severe.

However, if you are not a U.S. citizen a conviction of what might be considered a minor criminal offense may have a very significant affect on your immigration status.

What makes a theft serious?

In New York a minor theft is called petit larceny.  It is typically the charge associated with shoplifting.

If the property that you are accused of stealing has a value that is less than $1,000 then you will be charged with petit larceny, a misdemeanor.

On the other hand, if the value of the property is $1,000 or more, then you will face the felony charge of grand larceny.

There are 4 degrees of grand larceny:  grand larceny in the fourth degree, third degree, second degree and first degree.

Grand larceny in the first degree is the most serious charge.  You will face this charge if you are suspected of stealing property with a value greater than $1,000,000.

New Jersey does not use the term petit larceny.

If you are accused of stealing property with a value of less than $200, you will face a charge of theft as a disorderly person offense.

If the value of the property stolen is at least $200 then you will face a theft as a crime charge.

There are 3 degrees of this charge: theft as a crime in the fourth degree, third degree, and second degree.

Theft as a crime in the second degree is the most serious charge.

It involves stealing property valued at over $75,000.

Some very serious theft offenses are prosecuted in Federal Court. Federal criminal defense is extremely hard, with an overall 94% conviction rate.

What is the punishment for being convicted of theft?

If you are convicted of petit larceny the maximum sentence of imprisonment that you will face is 1 year in jail, while if you are convicted of theft as a disorderly persons offense the maximum sentence is 6 months in jail.

If you are convicted of the more serious crime of grand larceny or theft as a crime, then you could end up in prison for up to 10 years in New Jersey and up to 25 years in New York. Your sentence will depend on a number of factors the most of important of which is the degree of the theft offense with which you are charged.

How will a theft conviction affect my immigration status?

If you are convicted of certain criminal offenses and you are not a U.S. citizen, under Federal law you may face deportation.

Whether or not you face deportation depends on whether the crime of which you are convicted is a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) or is an aggravated felony (AF).  If you are convicted of a crime that is deemed a CIMT or AF, not only may you face deportation, if you are in the process of applying for a green card or a visa, your application may be denied.

Deportation defense can be very problematic if you have been convicted of a CIMT. A good immigration attorney is able to negotiate a guilty plea to an offense that does not involve deprived or evil intent.

A crime that involves theft is a crime involving more turpitude.  A crime that carries a sentence of more than a year is an AF under federal law.

Thus, if you are convicted of grand larceny or theft as a crime and you are not a U.S. citizen, you will likely face deportation proceedings.

However, if you are convicted of petit larceny or theft as a disorderly person offense you may avoid deportation as long as you are sentenced to less than a year in jail.