A noncitizen of the U.S., whether an undocumented immigrant or a lawful permanent resident (a green card holder) needs to understand the immigration consequences of any crime that he or she is charged with. Conviction can, in many cases, lead to deportation (removal) from the United States.
It’s difficult to generalize about which crimes make a noncitizen deportable under federal immigration law. The analysis depends in some cases on whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony, and in other cases on whether the type of crime is specifically listed among the grounds for deportability (as are various drug crimes, domestic violence, child abuse, and more).
A common way for noncitizens to become deportable, however, is through conviction of an aggravated felony. Conviction of a crime of moral turpitude within five years of admission to the country is another.
Many noncitizens serve their sentences and are then deported (removed). The noncitizen may not find out about intended deportation until the last minute, when the immigration authorities place a “hold” on him or her.
For example, suppose that, eight years after her lawful admission to the country, Mia Palabra is convicted of possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana for personal use, a misdemeanor. Mia is subject to deportation even though the crime is a misdemeanor, because it qualifies as a drug offense.
For more detailed information regarding the immigration effects of criminal charges, see Crimes and U.S. Immigration. Noncitizens who have had an encounter with the criminal justice system should also consult an attorney experienced in immigration matters.