Immigration Law: “Can I be deported for a Theft Conviction?” By Vincent Martin of Cundy & Martin
Theft charges can have a major impact on an individual’s immigration status. Most theft offenses are crimes that are considered ‘Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude’ (CIMT) under United States immigration laws. In most cases, a non-citizen who has convictions for two or more Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude is deportable from the United States, meaning the Department of Homeland Security could institute deportation proceedings. Additionally, some Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude can also render individuals removable in certain situations with only one conviction.
Theft offenses can also be Aggravated Felonies in certain cases, in addition to being Crimes of Moral Turpitude. If convicted of an Aggravated Felony under immigration law, an individual is removable from the country. Offenses treated as misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors or some other misdemeanor type under state law can be Aggravated Felonies under the Federal immigration laws. The label placed on the crime by the state’s law generally does not control whether an offense is an Aggravated Felony under immigration law. In most cases, theft offenses which result in a jail penalty of 365 days or more (even if the jail time is “stayed” meaning if the person completes probation they do not actually have to serve the jail sentence) are considered aggravated felonies under Federal immigration law.
For example, a non-citizen convicted of a gross misdemeanor theft offense under Minnesota law and who is sentenced to 365 days in jail, even with the jail time stayed and the person not actually having to serve the time assuming good behavior, likely could be a removable Aggravated Felon under Federal immigration law, even though Minnesota law does not treat the offense as a felony level offense. However, if the individual was only sentenced to 364 days in jail, then the individual may not be removable on Theft Aggravated Felony grounds (though they might be removable on some other Aggravated Felony ground in certain cases and also might be removable on Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude grounds).
Individuals who are labeled as aggravated felons have fewer defenses to removal in Immigration Court, as under immigration law this label precludes the granting of many types of relief. However, individuals who are removable but not on aggravated felony grounds generally will have more defense to removal available in Immigration Court.
Any non-citizen charged with a crime should speak to an Immigration Lawyer BEFORE resolving their criminal case. This means bringing in an immigration attorney to work with your criminal defense lawyer. At Cundy & Martin, we have Immigration and Criminal Defense attorneys who team up on cases where individuals are charged with crimes so that the client has the best chance of getting an outcome that minimizes immigration consequences.