The Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions in California

If you or a family member are facing deportation because of a criminal conviction call our office for

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Many noncitizens living in California who are in this country legally as lawful permanent residents [green cards] or here lawfully for any other reason are unaware of the severe immigration consequences that can occur if convicted for a violation of a California criminal offense

Rules and laws governing noncitizens and the immigration consequences of criminal convictions fall within the province of the federal government. While, what constitutes a crime in California is determined by the California legislature, how a conviction under California law impacts a noncitizen’s immigration status is determined by federal immigration law. Normally, the state of California has no control over how California criminal convictions are treated for that purpose.

Many California crimes can support deportation under federal law, and noncitizens living in California need to be aware of that fact. Even though the punishment for a conviction under California law may only be a fine and probation the consequences under federal law could be probable or certain deportation, as well as denial of citizenship, or denial of reentry.

The class of crimes most often resulting in deportation are what is referred to as “aggravated felonies.” However, an offense need not be “aggravated” or a “felony” to be considered an “aggravated felony” for purposes of federal immigration law. Instead, an “aggravated felony” is any crime that the United States Congress decides to label as such.

Other crimes not considered “aggravated felonies” can also be grounds for removal. Another class of crimes which may be grounds for removal are those “crimes involving moral turpitude.” Noncitizens convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude may be subject to deportation. For that to occur a noncitizen must have committed two such crimes while they have resided in the United States or one if they have resided here for less than five years. If a noncitizen meets either criteria they will likely be placed into removable proceedings, and deported.

While trial courts in California are required under California law to advise anyone pleading guilty to a criminal offense that a conviction “may” have immigration consequences, that usually is not enough in many cases to warn those pleading guilty of the certainly of those consequences.

Their attorneys are required to give specific advice regarding the immigration consequences of a conviction, and have a duty to investigate those consequences as well as to defend against them. However, in the past too often criminal attorneys have failed to give sufficient advice to warn noncitizens of the severe immigration consequences of the offense they have been convicted of, or to assist in preventing those consequences from occurring by structuring a plea bargain either without immigration consequences, or ones having less serious immigration consequences.

California in 2017 enacted a law which provides a means which under certain circumstance can prevent deportation resulting from a criminal conviction in California that could result in deportation under federal immigration standards. . . contact our office today for more information on how this can be accomplished. 760 779-9666