While getting arrested has serious consequences for anyone, the consequences can be even more serious if you are a non-U.S. citizen. If your arrest leads to a conviction, you can be deported, and you can potentially be deemed “inadmissible” or ineligible to return to the United States.
While not all criminal convictions lead to deportation, some do. Additionally, being “convicted” for immigration purposes doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as facing a conviction in criminal court. In short, there is a lot you need to know and to ensure that you are making the right decisions, you should speak with a New Jersey immigration lawyer as soon as possible.
When Can You Be Deported for a Crime in New Jersey?
The grounds for deportation are listed in 8 U.S.C. Section 1227. This federal statute is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and it addresses crimes committed under both state and federal law.
Specifically, the criminal offenses that can lead to deportation are addressed in Section 1227(a)(2). These criminal offenses primarily fall into six categories:
1. General Crimes
Section 1227(a)(2)(A)(i) provides for deportation of any non-U.S. citizen who is convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude” within five years of being admitted to the United States (or 10 years for green card holders). It also provides for deportation of any non-U.S. citizen who is convicted of a crime carrying a potential prison sentence of one year or longer. Examples of crimes involving moral turpitude include:
- Tax evasion
In New Jersey, all indictable crimes carry a potential prison sentence of one year or longer. These include crimes like aggravated assault, sexual assault, drug distribution, kidnapping, robbery and burglary—among many others.
Sections 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii) through (v) identify additional crimes that can trigger deportation proceedings. These include:
- Multiple convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude, regardless of timing or term of imprisonment
- Aggravated felonies
- High-speed flight
- Failure to register as a sex offender
2. Drug Crimes
Under Section 1227(a)(2)(B), a criminal conviction under any law “relating to a controlled substance,” other than possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana for personal use, is grounds for deportation. This section of the law also provides that any non-U.S. citizen who is found to be a “drug abuser or addict” is subject to removal from the United States.
3. Firearms Offenses
While Section 1227(a)(2)(C) is labeled “Certain Firearm Offenses,” it is extremely broad. Under this provision of the INA, a conviction for “purchasing, selling, offering for sale, exchanging, using, owning, possessing, or carrying, or of attempting or conspiring to purchase, sell, offer for sale, exchange, use, own, possess, or carry, any weapon, part, or accessory which is a firearm or destructive device” is grounds for deportation.
4. Miscellaneous Crimes
Section 1227(a)(2)(D) is labeled “Miscellaneous Crimes.” It primarily covers serious criminal offenses under federal law, including espionage, treason and sedition.
5. Domestic Violence and Related Offenses
While many domestic violence crimes and related offenses under New Jersey law qualify as deportable crimes under Section 1227(a)(2)(A)(i), the INA addresses these crimes separately in Section 1227(a)(2)(E). A conviction at any time after admission of stalking, child abuse, child neglect, child abandonment, or a crime of domestic violence is grounds for deportation, as is a conviction for violation of a domestic violence restraining order.
Any non-U.S. citizen who is convicted of trafficking under 8 U.S.C. Section 1182 is subject to deportation under Section 1227(a)(2)(F).
What Does It Mean to Be “Convicted” of a Crime for Immigration Purposes?
Being arrested isn’t enough to subject a non-U.S. citizen to deportation under U.S. law. Rather, in order to trigger deportation proceedings, an arrest must lead to a “conviction.”
What does it mean to be “convicted” of a crime for immigration purposes? Under the INA, a conviction includes:
- Being subject to a formal judgment of guilt entered by a court (i.e., a guilty verdict in a New Jersey criminal case); or
- Admitting sufficient facts to be found guilty of a deportable crime.
As a result, when facing criminal charges as a non-U.S. citizen, you need to be very careful about what you say and how you handle your case. Even if your case doesn’t go to trial, your arrest could still potentially lead to deportation. When you hire an experienced New Jersey immigration lawyer, your lawyer will speak in court on your behalf, and your lawyer will explain everything you need to avoid doing in order to mitigate your risk of removal.
How Can You Avoid Deportation (Removal) After an Arrest in New Jersey?
Given the risk of facing deportation due to a conviction, what should you do to protect yourself after being arrested in New Jersey? In this situation, you should:
- Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent – Non-U.S. citizens are entitled to the protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution. This includes the right to remain silent when facing criminal charges. You should exercise your right to remain silent to avoid saying anything that could lead to a conviction and deportation.
- Make Sure You Do Not Plead Guilty – While you should hire a lawyer to represent you in court, if you go to court on your own, make sure you do not plead guilty. As discussed above, this counts as a “conviction” for immigration purposes, and it could trigger deportation proceedings.
- Speak with a Lawyer As Soon As Possible – Due to the risks you are facing, it is important that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. You will want to choose a lawyer at a law firm that handles both criminal and immigration matters in New Jersey.
Speak with a New Jersey Immigration Lawyer in Confidence
With multiple offices across New Jersey, we represent non-U.S. citizens in all types of criminal and immigration matters. If you need to speak with a New Jersey immigration lawyer in confidence, we invite you to call 877-435-6371 or contact us online to arrange an initial consultation.