No matter your reasons for coming to the United States, by now you have built a life for yourself. Perhaps your visa provided you with a good job or an opportunity to study at a Texas university. Maybe you obtained a green card through a family member. In any case, you certainly understand the importance of appreciating your rights and protecting your status, especially in the current political climate.
Nevertheless, things happen. You make a mistake or find yourself in the wrong place or with the wrong people. You may have had little control over the circumstances that lead to your arrest, but the cold fact is that your status in the U.S. is now at risk.
A felony is not always a felony
You probably know better than to commit a crime that can result in a felony charge. Felonies are generally serious crimes that place particular people or the welfare of society in harm’s way. Violent crimes, theft involving substantial amounts of money or significant property damage, and certain drug crimes are usually felonies, depending on the circumstances. The penalties for a felony conviction often include years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
However, because of your status in the U.S. immigration system, you may face a special kind of felony charge reserved for foreign nationals. Aggravated felony is a term that can include offenses that may only be misdemeanors, or minor crimes, if a U.S. citizen committed them. While the list of aggravated felonies also includes mostly violent crimes, immigration authorities can charge you with an aggravated felony for minor offenses such as lying on your tax returns or failing to appear for a court date.
Crimes of moral turpitude may also place your status in the U.S. at risk. Moral turpitude means that your behavior goes against what is normally acceptable in civilized society. The government does not have a specific list of these offenses, but if authorities decide the offense of which you stand accused contains elements of moral turpitude, you have a reason to be concerned about your future. Convictions for perjury, most weapons crimes and tax evasion, for example, often result in severe consequences.
In your situation, those severe consequences may include a downgrade in your status, ineligibility for asylum or deportation after serving your sentence in prison. It is evident that you can take nothing for granted as a foreign national. Any encounter with the criminal justice system may change the course of your life. You would be wise to reach out for legal help.