Tis the season for shopping; it is the holidays after all. What some may not realize, however, is that a small indiscretion like shoplifting can sometimes have major consequences, not only in the criminal courts but also on a person’s immigration status. Not only is there a potential for losing the ability to remain in the U.S. and/or the ability to enter the U.S., but even for those who can remain in the U.S., there are risks associated with losing job opportunities, green card eligibility, and the prospect of losing or delaying eligibility to apply for U.S. citizenship – all based on that perceived – but very impactful – small indiscretion.
Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act lists various grounds on which a person can be found “inadmissible” to the United States. One of these grounds involves crime; if a person is convicted of, or admits to having committed, a “crime involving moral turpitude.” there could be significant immigration consequences pursuant to Section 212. The issue of what crimes involve ‘moral turpitude’ is not always clear, and the definition of that term has evolved over the years through case law. However, it is currently fair to say that theft offenses are almost universally considered to be ‘crimes of moral turpitude’ under the law. Therefore, committing even a minor or petty theft can have serious consequences to one’s immigration status.
The consequences of one’s indiscretion are not just limited to his/ her admission into the United States, they also apply to one’s deportability/ removability. A crime of moral turpitude (inclusive of theft) committed within five years of admission to the United States could result in a person’s removal from the country. This is so if the charge has a maximum ‘possible’ (note, not ‘actual’) sentence that is one year or longer.
When applying for citizenship it is necessary for a person to show that he has been a person of “good moral character” for the past five years (three years for certain persons married to U.S. citizens). If there were any convictions during that period for crimes including moral turpitude, the applicant will face challenges and could be denied citizenship.
Based on the foregoing, it should go without saying that Individuals facing a criminal charge (theft or otherwise) and having any sort of immigration issue should immediately seek the advice of a qualified immigration attorney as well as a Seattle criminal defense attorney before resolving their case. The Seattle criminal defense attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle criminal defense lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether cited for a driving theft, a driving offense, prostitution, possession and/or distribution of drugs, assault, property destruction or some other law violation, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys immediately.