Criminal Defense of Immigrants in Colorado

Colorado is home to more than 300,000 non-U.S. citizens, many of them in Denver. Though immigrants are fundamental to America's identity, immigrants are always just one conviction away from being deported.

Aliens in Colorado may be removed from the United States if they are convicted of either:

That is why it is vital for non-citizens to retain legal counsel as early as possible after arrest. The attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a non-deportable offense.

But even immigrants who have already been found guilty of a deportable crime may still be able to remain in the U.S. They could be eligible to get their judgments vacated through such post-conviction relief measures as:

Below our Denver criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about how aliens facing prosecution in Colorado can stay in the U.S. Click on a topic to go to that section.

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Legal aliens can be removed from the U.S. if they get convicted of a deportable crime.

1. Which immigrants in Colorado can get deported?

It depends whether the non-citizen has lawful immigrant status or not...

1.1. Illegal aliens

Undocumented aliens can be thrown out of the U.S. just for being in the U.S. illegally. They do not have to commit any other crime in order to be removed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

1.2. Legal aliens

Aliens with lawful immigration status include:

  • visa-holders,
  • green-card holders (legal permanent residents),
  • asylees, or
  • refugees

Legal aliens get deported usually only when they get convicted of a deportable crime. (Though in today's political climate, the future of immigrant rights is uncertain.)1

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Deportable crimes include aggravated felonies, drug crimes, gun crimes, domestic violence crimes, and crimes involving moral turpitude.

2. What are deportable offenses in Colorado?

Aliens who get found guilty of committing a deportable offense can be removed from the U.S.

The majority of deportable offenses in Colorado include aggravated felonies, drug crimes, gun crimes, domestic violence offenses, or crimes of moral turpitude:

2.1. Aggravated felonies

Aliens found guilty of aggravated felonies may be deported. Aggravated felonies comprise several different kinds of Colorado offenses, including murder, rape, and some theft and fraud offenses.

Aggravated felonies are typically "intent crimes." This means the alien had to intend to commit the crime in order to be guilty of it.

Consequently, a non-intent crime like DUI is usually not classified as an aggravated felony in Colorado. (DUIs are non-intent crimes because a driver can be found guilty of it even if he/she had no intention of driving drunk.)2

2.2. Drug crimes

Immigrants convicted of possessing, selling, or making drugs can be removed from the U.S. In fact, simply admitting to being a drug addict or a drug dealer can make an alien deportable.

The one drug crime that does not lead to deportation is "possession of marijuana for personal use" as long as the marijuana weighed in at (30) grams or less.3

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A non-citizen convicted of a gun crime in Colorado can be deported from the U.S.

2.3. Gun crimes

Non-citizens who are convicted of any firearm crime in Colorado may be deported. Common examples of deportable firearm crimes include the unlawful purchase of a firearm, illegal discharge of a firearm, and carrying concealed guns without a permit.4

2.4. Domestic violence crimes

Like it sounds, domestic violence refers to physical violence between dating partners. In Colorado, domestic violence is not a separate crime. Instead, it is an enhancement that applies if domestic violence occurred during the commission of other crimes.

Examples of Colorado crimes that domestic violence enhancements can attach to include stalking, assault, and menacing. (Also see our article on domestic violence harassment.) A non-citizen may also be deported for violating a restraining order in Colorado.

Note that domestic violence also qualifies as an aggravated felony and a crime of moral turpitude. That is why it is often called a "triple whammy" deportation crime.5

2.5. Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMTs)

Crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT) are particularly immoral offenses. Common examples of CIMTs in Colorado include:

  • murder
  • voluntary manslaughter
  • kidnapping
  • rape
  • solicitation of prostitution
  • carrying a concealed weapon with intent to use

If an alien was convicted of only one CIMT, he/she may avoid deportation unless:

  • the CIMT is a felony, AND
  • the CIMT was allegedly committed within five years of coming to the U.S. (or 10 years in some rare circumstances).6

3. What do I do if I was arrested for a deportable crime in Colorado? 

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Being charged with a deportable crime does not guarantee that the alien will get convicted. A good plea deal could save an alien from deportation.

An arrest is just the start of a criminal case. And just because an alien gets charged does not mean he/she will get convicted...

However, aliens facing prosecution for deportable crimes should hire a criminal defense attorney right away in an effort to avoid a conviction.

A defense attorney's job is to try to negotiate with the state to either (1) get the case dismissed, or (2) get the charge reduced to a non-deportable offense. If the attorney is successful, there will no conviction and the immigrant may stay in the U.S.

4. Can convicted immigrants still stay in the U.S.?

Once a defendant in Colorado is found guilty at trial or through a plea, it is difficult to overturn the conviction. But there are ways that could invalidate the conviction and keep an alien defendant in the U.S.:

4.1. 35(c) petitions

Also called post-conviction relief, 35(c) petitions asks the judge to review whether a verdict or sentence is invalid. If the defendant can show that he/she was denied his/her constitutional rights, the judge may set aside the judgment.7

4.2. Motion for a new trial

A motion for a new trial is where the defendant asks the trial judge for a redo. If the defendant can persuade the judge that the trial suffered from serious errors, the judge will overturn the verdict and schedule a new trial. This way, the defendant has a fresh opportunity to negotiate a good plea bargain or have a better trial.8

4.3. Motion for reconsideration

A motion for reconsideration is when the defendant asks the judge to grant him a lesser sentence. The judge may comply if the defendant can show that the sentence was unduly harsh. And if the judge lowers the sentence enough, then the defendant may not be considered deportable anymore (depending on the case).9

4.4. Federal writ of habeas corpus

If all else fails, a defendant can file a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. In this situation, the court reviews whether the defendant is being held illegally. If the court finds for the defendant, he/she may no longer be deportable.10

Call a Colorado criminal defense attorney...

If you are a non-citizen who has been charged with a crime in Colorado, it is vital you hire legal counsel to try to minimize your immigration consequences. Call our Denver criminal defense attorneys at (303) 222-0330 for a FREE consultation on how we will fight to keep you in the U.S.

Arrested in Nevada? Read our article about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

Legal References

  1. Deportable Alien, USCIS; 8 U.S. Code § 1227 - Deportable aliens.
  2. U.S.C. 1227 (a)(2)(A)(iii); 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43).
  3. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B).
  4. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3); 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C).
  5. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E).
  6. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A).
  7. C.R.S. § 18-1-410; Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure 35(c).
  8. Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure 33.
  9. C.R.S. § 18-1-102.5.; Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure 35(b).
  10. 28 U.S. Code § 2241.

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The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

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