The immigration consequences of a conviction for state misdemeanors can be severe. However, as it often plays out in the numerous District Courts in Michigan, people often do not worry much about anything more than the immediate consequences of a misdemeanor offense. People think that as long as they take care of the court costs, fines, and probation everything will be fine.
Unfortunately, that may not be the case if you are one of the over 340,000 people living in Michigan as a lawful permanent resident, also known as a green card holder. That misdemeanor offense may just get you deported or make you “inadmissible” to apply for citizenship here in the United States.
Recently, the United States Supreme Court held in Padilla that a criminal defense attorney must advise a non-citizen regarding the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and the failure to do so may amount to ineffective assistance of counsel.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which is the major source of legal authority for immigration law, a person convicted of any “crime involving moral turpitude” may be deportable if it was committed within five years of that person’s admission into the United States. In addition, a person convicted of more than one is deportable, even if it was a misdemeanor.
So, what is a crime of “moral turpitude?” Although the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice are somewhat ambiguous in defining a crime of moral turpitude, the Attorney General has illustrated several offenses that supposedly fit the definition.
For example, according to the Attorney General “crimes involving moral turpitude” include any controlled substance offense, whether or not it was committed while in the United States. It may also include any conviction involving the purchase, sale, use, owning, possessing, or carrying of any weapon or destructive devise. In addition, a crime of domestic violence, stalking, or violating a personal protection order may also qualify.
The bottom line is that if you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) of the United States and you are charged with a crime, make sure you and your attorney know that although the state may only sentence you to probation, the United States government may be able to deport you.
Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you consult with an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney who understands that for some people misdemeanors can result in a one-way ticket to your country of origin.