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What is an Aggravated Felony in Immigration?

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An aggravated felony conviction can mean big trouble for a non-citizen.  It means you’re not eligible to become a U.S. citizen and can even mean you’ll be removed or deported.

An aggravated felony does not have to be either a felony or aggravated.  While serious felonies such as murder, rape, child sex offenses, and drug trafficking qualify as aggravated felonies, so do many minor crimes.

According to the immigration laws, any crime involving theft, receiving stolen property, violence, forgery, or counterfeiting where a sentence of a year or more is imposed qualifies.  This means even a misdemeanor can qualify if the sentence is a year or more.

An aggravated felony prevents you from demonstrating good moral character for naturalization or citizenship.

Does a Conviction Count as an Aggravated Felony if I Didn’t Go to Jail?

The sentence according to immigration law includes suspended sentences.  So even if you were sentenced to probation, this may qualify as an aggravated felony.

For example, I had a client who pled guilty to a misdemeanor theft offense and was sentenced to probation.  She was sentenced to a year suspended for probation.  Even more than a decade later, this still meant she couldn’t become a US citizen and could even be deported or removed.

 

If you’re a noncitizen charged with a crime, you should hire an attorney familiar with immigration law.  Otherwise, you risk being deported or being denied status, even if the plea seems like a good deal.

Contact me today if you have a criminal charge pending and you’re not a citizen, even if you’ve been in the United States for a long time.  An immigration attorney can help ensure your ability to stay in this country long term.

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