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How Will an Arrest in New Jersey Impact Your Immigration Status?

February 22, 2024 | Posted In Criminal Law, Immigration |

Facing criminal charges in New Jersey can lead to fines, jail time and other penalties. But, if you are a non-U.S. citizen, the consequences of an arrest can be far greater. Getting arrested for certain crimes can have immigration consequences as well, and, depending on the charges against you, your arrest could lead to deportation (or removal). As a result, if you are facing criminal charges as a non-U.S. citizen, it is important that you speak with a New Jersey immigration lawyer about your situation promptly.

In New Jersey, neither the police nor prosecutors are allowed to ask about your immigration status in connection with a criminal investigation or criminal prosecution, “except the rare cases with that information is relevant to a specific criminal investigation.” Even so, once you are arrested, your arrest record can still be sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are facing charges for a crime that would render you inadmissible as a foreign citizen, this can trigger deportation (or removal) proceedings in federal court.

Types of Crimes in New Jersey That Can Trigger Deportation (Removal) Proceedings

Not all arrests have potential immigration consequences. Under federal law, there are two categories of crimes that can lead to deportation (or removal). These are (i) crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs); and (ii) aggravated felonies.

1. Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMTs)

Crimes involving moral turpitude are offenses that are considered fundamentally immoral due to the nature of the offense. But, despite the critical importance of knowing whether a specific offense constitutes a CIMT, there is no statutory definition or list of these crimes.

Instead, the courts have been left to interpret what constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude for U.S. immigration purposes. Some examples of crimes that have been identified as CIMTs include:

  • Theft, burglary and shoplifting
  • Sexual assault
  • Check fraud, credit card fraud and other fraud-related offenses
  • Intentional and reckless violent crimes
  • Crimes with lewd intent

A single conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude can trigger deportation (or removal) proceedings if it carries a potential jail sentence of one year or longer. This includes all indictable crimes under New Jersey law. If you have previously been convicted of a CIMT, you can face deportation for a second offense regardless of the criminal penalties that are on the table.

2. Aggravated Felonies

You can also face deportation in New Jersey following an arrest for an aggravated felony. Even though New Jersey does not classify any crimes as “felonies”—instead using the term “indictable offense”— several types of crimes prosecuted under New Jersey law fall into this category. Some examples of aggravated felonies for U.S. immigration purposes include:

  • Murder, rape or sexual abuse of a minor
  • Drug trafficking
  • Firearms trafficking
  • Money laundering in excess of $10,000
  • Fraud resulting in losses in excess of $10,000
  • Theft crimes carrying at least a one-year prison term
  • Violent crimes carrying at least a one-year prison term

If you are being charged with an aggravated felony, you can face deportation (or removal) regardless of your criminal history (if any). Removal is a very real possibility, and it will be critical to work with an experienced New Jersey immigration lawyer and criminal defense lawyer to protect yourself by all means available.

Defending Against Criminal Charges that Can Trigger Deportation (Removal)

When facing criminal charges in New Jersey that have the potential to lead to deportation (or removal), you must work with your legal counsel to determine how best to approach your defense. While there are several potential options, you must carefully choose the best option for your individual circumstances. These options will generally include:

  • Determine if You Are Eligible for Pretrial Intervention (PTI) – If you are being prosecuted as a first-time offender, you may be eligible for New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program. Please note, however, that pretrial intervention typically does not help an immigrant except when they are charged with a disorderly offense involving domestic violence. In such cases, they must advise the judge of what makes them guilty, and Immigration will get a transcript of the guilty allocution.   
  • Consider a Plea Deal that Reduces the Severity of Your Charges – If PTI isn’t an option and you are likely to face a conviction in court, then your best option may be to negotiate a plea deal that reduces the severity of your charges. Pleading guilty to a lesser crime that does not constitute a crime involving moral turpitude or an aggravated felony may allow you to avoid facing deportation (or removal).
  • Fight Your Criminal Charges in Court – You always have the option of fighting your criminal charges in court. To secure a conviction, prosecutors must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If they cannot meet this burden of proof, then you are entitled to a “Not guilty” verdict at trial. If you did not commit the crime of which you are accused, or if prosecutors do not have the evidence they need to convict you, then you do not deserve to face the life-altering consequences of a serious criminal conviction.

From demonstrating your evidence to showing that the police or prosecutors violated your constitutional rights, there are several potential ways to fight criminal charges in New Jersey. When you speak with an experienced lawyer about your case, your lawyer will examine all of the relevant facts and help you make an informed decision about how to move forward.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation with a New Jersey Immigration Lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges in New Jersey as a foreign citizen, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. To speak with an experienced New Jersey immigration lawyer in confidence, please call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can contact you online today.

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