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Can a permanent resident be deported for a misdemeanor?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 03, 2020 | 0 Comments

Permanent residents can be deported for certain misdemeanors. These include:

  • crimes involving moral turpitude,
  • drug crimes,
  • firearms offenses,
  • failing to register as a sex offender,
  • violating a restraining order,
  • domestic violence offenses, and
  • child abuse crimes.

These offenses make non-citizens deportable. This includes permanent residents.

immigration and customs enforcement sign
All non-citizens are deportable for certain crimes.

What are deportable offenses?

All non-citizens are deportable for certain crimes. This includes a conviction for any of the following offenses:

  • aggravated felonies,
  • crimes of moral turpitude,
  • flight from an immigration checkpoint,
  • failure to register as a sex offender,
  • drug offenses, other than low-level marijuana possession,
  • attempted drug offenses,
  • a conspiracy to commit a drug offense,
  • certain firearms offenses,
  • crimes like espionage or trading with the enemy,
  • domestic violence,
  • stalking,
  • child abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and
  • violation of a protection order or restraining order.1

Some of these offenses can be misdemeanors.

What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a type of crime. It is more severe than an infraction. On the other hand, it is less severe than a felony.

In most states, the jail sentence separates felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies can come with over a year behind bars. The jail sentence for misdemeanors has to be less than a year.

California is one of these states. Aggravated misdemeanors are the most severe types of misdemeanor. A conviction carries up to 364 days in jail.2

What is a crime involving moral turpitude?

A crime involving moral turpitude, or CIMT, is a type of criminal offense. Convictions can make a permanent resident deportable. These offenses all include acts of:

  • fraud,
  • dishonesty,
  • grave baseness, or
  • depravity.3

They usually require a specific intent to commit the crime. Generally, crimes of moral turpitude cannot happen because of a:

  • mistake,
  • ignorance, or
  • accident.

A crime of moral turpitude can be deportable. The conviction has to:

  • happen within 5 years of the date of admission to the U.S., and
  • carry at least 1 year in jail.4

Multiple CIMT convictions make a permanent resident deportable. These offenses can happen at any point after entry to the U.S.5

drug deal
Drug trafficking is one example of a deportable offense

What drug crimes can lead to deportation?

Nearly all drug crime convictions are deportable offenses. This includes misdemeanor convictions for:

  • drug possession,
  • possession of drug paraphernalia,
  • drug trafficking,
  • drug manufacture,
  • possession with an intent to sell, and
  • driving under the influence of drugs.

A conspiracy to commit a drug crime is a deportable offense. Even an attempt to commit any of these offenses is deportable.

There is only one exception to deportable drug crimes. This is for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. The drugs have to be for personal use. Only the first offense is exempt. A second conviction is a deportable offense.6

Drug addiction can make a permanent resident deportable, as well.7 Evidence of drug addiction can show up during a drug charge.

What about offenses involving firearms?

Permanent residents are deportable for most firearms offenses. Some of these are misdemeanors. Most firearm violations are deportable. This includes the act of illegally:

  • buying or selling a firearm,
  • possessing a gun,
  • exchanging a firearm,
  • carrying a weapon, or
  • owning a firearm.

This includes attempted offenses or a conspiracy to commit a crime.8

What about crimes of domestic violence?

Domestic violence crimes can make a permanent resident deportable. This is true even if the offense is a misdemeanor.

The law uses a federal definition of domestic violence. It involves the use, threatened use, or attempted use of physical force against:

  • a current or former spouse or common law spouse,
  • the other parent of the permanent resident's child, or
  • anyone else protected by the state's domestic violence laws.9

This includes violence against the property of anyone covered by the law.

It also includes the offenses of:

  • stalking, and
  • violation of a protection or restraining order.10

What about crimes against children?

Permanent residents can also be deported for a misdemeanor offense where the victim is a child. This includes:

  • child abuse,
  • child neglect, and
  • child abandonment.11

What about failing to register as a sex offender?

Yes. Failing to register as a sex offender is a deportable crime.12 Many of these offenses are misdemeanors.13

Who are permanent residents?

Permanent residents are non-citizens who hold “green cards.”

Most people become permanent residents by being sponsored by their:

  • employer, or
  • relative.

While permanent residents do not have the full rights of a U.S. citizen, they can legally live and work in the U.S. However, they usually have to renew their green card every 10 years. They can also naturalize and become U.S. citizens.

Permanent residents, however, can be deported. One way they can be deported is if they commit a deportable crime. Many of these are misdemeanors.

Legal References:

  1. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2).

  2. California Penal Code 18.5 PC.

  3. Carty v. Ashcroft, 395 F.3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2005).

  4. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i).

  5. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii).

  6. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B).

  7. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(ii).

  8. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C).

  9. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E) and 18 U.S.C. 16.

  10. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E).

  11. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E)(i).

  12. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(v).

  13. See California Penal Code 290 PC (failing to register as a sex offender is a misdemeanor if the original offense was a misdemeanor).

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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