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Can I be deported for just any criminal conviction?

These days, families in the U.S. despair when a family member is found guilty of a crime.

They are correct, those criminal convictions can lead to deportation. But they need to know that not all sentences lead to this result.

These are the kinds of crimes that can lead to deportation:

Aggravated Felonies

Aggravated sounds like it means violent. It doesn't, not always. Some types of aggravated felonies are indeed violent - murder, rape and any violent act drawing a sentence of at least one year.

But the word aggravated means something like dangerous. This category includes such offenses as drug trafficking, dealing in firearms or explosives, kidnapping, certain computer crimes, gambling-related crimes, money laundering, racketeering, bribery, counterfeiting, forgery, obstruction of justice, the business of prostitution, human trafficking, and conspiracy to commit any of these crimes.

The key to aggravated crimes is that they must be weighty, and not minor. A minor act of fraud, for instance, will not trigger the aggravated designation.

There are few workable defenses for these aggravated offenses. Courts have allowed arguments for the remaining deportable crimes:

Drug Crimes. Individuals convicted of nearly all drug crimes are deportable. The sole exception is simple possession of small amounts. Immigration may target you for deportation just for having a drug problem.

Moral Turpitude. Like aggravated, moral turpitude is whatever Immigration says it is. The list of these crimes includes theft, murder, voluntary manslaughter, and crimes involving vileness, such as rape or certain other sexual offenses.

Gun Crimes. Firearms convictions can result in deportation. These include gun trafficking, possession of an illegal firearm and armed robbery.

Domestic Violence. This includes domestic assault, stalking, child abuse, or child neglect or abandonment.

Crimes Threatening National Security. This grouping includes terroristic acts, espionage, sabotage, treason.

The general rule to bear in mind is that crimes that do not cause serious harm to others probably do not rise to the level of deportability. First-time drunk driving likely will not qualify. Vehicular manslaughter, on the other hand, very well could.

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