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What’s an Aggravated Felony According to U.S. Immigration Law?
This is the worst category of crimes for immigration purposes because being convicted of an aggravated felony makes you ineligible for most forms of relief and subjects you to mandatory detention.
The term “aggravated felony” is a term created for the purposes of immigration law and has no connection to the definition of “felony” in state or federal criminal law. So, even if your criminal conviction was not called a “felony” under state law, it may still be considered an aggravated felony for purposes of your immigration proceedings. This area of the law is very complex, so only the best immigration lawyers have the necessary skills to represent immigrant charged with these serious crimes.
For example, some state misdemeanor convictions are considered aggravated felonies. Even so, sometimes a state felony conviction is not considered an aggravated felony. Furthermore, many crimes become aggravated felonies if the sentence imposed is for one year or more, even if it is a suspended sentence. This is why it is important to know not only what your convictions are for and how long your sentence was. Other crimes may be aggravated felonies regardless of what the sentence was.
An aggravated felony is defined in the INA.
Following are examples of aggravated felonies:
– Crimes of violence for which the penalty was at least one year;
– If physical force was used or most likely could have been used in committing the crime, the crime may be considered a crime of violence and, therefore, an aggravated felony.
– Sexual abuse of a minor;
– Drug trafficking;
– Firearms trafficking;
– Theft or burglary for which the penalty imposed is imprisonment for at least one year;
– Child pornography;
– Prostitution business;
– Crime of fraud or deceit or tax evasion if the loss to the victim exceeds $10,000;
– Some types of money laundering in excess of $10,000;
– Failure to appear for service of sentence;
– Crime related to commercial bribery;
– Crime relating to obstruction of justice, perjury or subornation (encouragement) of perjury, or bribery of a witness, where the penalty imposed is one year or more in prison (felony or misdemeanor);
– Smuggling aliens;
– Conviction related to failure to appear before a court on a felony charge that could result in a sentence of two or more years;
– An attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the above.
In most federal courts, a conviction for any offense listed as an “aggravated felony” is grounds for deportation, even if the crime was not considered an “aggravated felony” at the time of conviction. In other words, whenever Congress adds a new offense to the list of “aggravated felonies” in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), lawfully present immigrants who have previously been convicted of such crimes become immediately deportable. As a result, any addition to the list of “aggravated felonies” will apply to prior convictions unless Congress affirmatively states that it will only apply to future convictions.
An “aggravated felony” is one, but not the only, basis to deport immigrants convicted of a criminal offense. Removal proceedings may also be initiated against immigrants convicted of one or more crimes involving “moral turpitude,” a wide category of offenses that includes, but is not limited to, most crimes that qualify as an “aggravated felony.” Immigrants convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude are subject to deportation, but do not face the additional consequences associated with a conviction for an “aggravated felony.” The immigration laws also permit deportation for convictions of various offenses.
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