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Debunking The Myth of “Safe” Misdemeanor Convictions

For a U.S. citizen, being charged with a misdemeanor equates to anything from a fine to incarceration. However, even if U.S. citizens receive the maximum penalty, they aren’t facing deportation. The impact that crimes have on non-U.S. citizens cannot be understated. Previously, we published a piece about how ICE is no longer limited to deportation enforcement priorities—even though President Biden issued the policy memo.

Misdemeanor offenses do not carry the same punishments as felonies, so there is a common misconception that a misdemeanor plea offer is “safe.” Non-citizens may develop a false sense of security based on misconceptions or misunderstandings about the true impact of a misdemeanor conviction. For example, a criminal defense attorney may urge a non-citizen to accept a plea deal for a reduced charge, like a felony to a misdemeanor, or from a misdemeanor to a different misdemeanor. The defense attorney may not be fully aware of the consequences that this will have on the non-citizen’s ability to become a legal permanent resident (LPR) or obtain U.S. citizenship.

Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude and 11 Months and 29 Days 

There are criminal charges that may prevent a non-citizen from being able to become a legal permanent resident/green card holder. Being convicted (or admitting guilt) to a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT) can bar a non-citizen from becoming an LPR. The following are some general examples of CIMTs: 

  • Offenses involving bodily harm or serious bodily harm 
  • Intentions to steal or defraud someone 
  • Sex offenses 
  • Prostitution 

There is a myth that as long as the offense does not come with a sentence of a year or more, it is not severe enough to constitute a CIMT or otherwise have an impact. Many non-CrImmigration attorneys believe that a sentence of 11 months and 29 days will cure any problems. 

Sometimes, a CIMT may not bar someone from obtaining citizenship if the following factors are present: 

  1. It is a single CIMT.
  2. The offense is not punishable by more than a year (in some states, a year or more in prison is reserved for felony convictions).
  3. The crime does not involve a prison sentence of more than six months.

This is again an example where the myth of “11 months and 29 days” does not ultimately help the defendant. This is one example of many. To be clear, we are simply providing a glimpse of some factors that determine the impact that your criminal conviction can have on your immigration status. There are many landmines in criminal cases that need to be handled carefully. There is no “one size fits all.” 

Any non-citizen charged with any crime must take the matter very seriously. Every non-U.S. citizen should have the name and number of a crimmigration attorney who understands how criminal charges impact immigration status. Don’t accept a deal that solves one problem but opens the door to another. 

Contact the crimmigration attorneys at STERN Law, PLLC, because we view each charge with how it impacts your immigration status. We were the first firm in America dedicated solely to crimmigration. We treat everyone equally, regardless of their status or the mistakes they have made.

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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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