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What Crimes Can Get You Deported From Texas?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What Crimes Can Get You Deported From Texas?

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In Texas, deportation is a genuine concern for non-citizens. Immigration laws evolve continually, and any arrest, plea deal, or conviction can result in deportation.

According to the US Border Patrol Criminal Non-Citizen Arrest records, there were over 10,000 arrests in the fiscal year 2021, up from a little over 4,000 in 2019 but less than the 12,000 in 2016. 

The most common reason for arrest was illegal entry or re-entry, followed by illegal drug possession or trafficking, and DUI or DWI. The least common reason for arrest? Homicide and manslaughter. While arrests for those crimes have increased since 2016, they are still a tiny portion of the arrests made by the border patrol. 

Before we get into the crimes that can get you deported from Texas, let’s talk about permanent residency, arrest vs. conviction, and moral turpitude.

Who Is a Permanent Resident of the United States?

Permanent residence status is conferred by the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). People who are permanent residents are often known as green card holders. A permanent resident can legally live in the United States but doesn’t hold the same rights as a citizen, meaning:

  • They cannot vote.
  • They cannot help residents gain legal status.
  • They cannot travel freely.
  • They have no permanent protection against deportation.

A permanent resident can only become a citizen when they have lived in the country for at least five years or married a US citizen for three years. Then they can become a naturalized citizen with all the legal protections citizens enjoy.

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Arrest vs. Conviction

An arrest isn’t the same as a conviction. An arrest means there is probable cause to detain someone who allegedly broke the law. 

The INA defines conviction as “any formal judgment of guilt entered by the court or if adjudication has been withheld where a judge and jury has found the alien guilty or the alien has entered a plea of guilty or no contest (nolo contendere), or has admitted sufficient facts to warrant a finding of guilty and the judge has ordered some form of punishment, penalty, or restraint on the alien’s liberty to be imposed.”

So, if you are a non-citizen and are arrested and convicted to a sentence of jail or prison time, a fine, community service, an order to pay costs and surcharges, or probation, the state has grounds to deport you.

Unfortunately, even an arrest can have implications for deportation, even if there is no conviction. An arrest can impact the immigration process, including your visa, residency, or citizenship application. Because the law requires non-citizens to show good moral character, an arrest can count against you. A conviction can lead to visa denial or deportation.

Moral Turpitude

You don’t hear too many people using the phrase “moral turpitude,” and its definition is pretty vague. Law enforcement and the courts are allowed to interpret it. In Texas, that interpretation tends to lean heavily towards deportation. Texas prides itself on being tough on immigration.

In the past, moral turpitude referred to offenses involving lewd acts that shocked the public conscience. There is no requirement that the offense is a felony. Pleading guilty or getting convicted of a misdemeanor that the prosecutor and judge determine as a crime of moral turpitude can lead to deportation. 

Schedule a free consultation with attorney Greg Tsioros »

Deportable Offenses

The US can deport a permanent resident for a single aggravated felony conviction or one crime of moral turpitude committed within the five years of the individual entering the US. A criminal non-citizen is someone who has been convicted of one or more crimes, either in the US or abroad, before their arrest by the US Border Patrol. 

Aggravated felonies that can get you deported include:

  • Murder 
  • Drug, human, or firearms trafficking
  • Rape, statutory rape, child pornography, or sexual abuse of a minor
  • Tax evasion and money laundering
  • Fraud or bribery
  • Treason 
  • Terroristic activity

Crimes of moral turpitude that can result in deportation include most of the above list and:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Robbery 
  • Kidnapping 
  • Animal cruelty such as dog fighting
  • Conspiracy 
  • DWI, including arrests involving accidents, wrecks, or injuries

If a person has allegedly committed a deportable offense, has an existing order to leave the country, or entered the country illegally, that individual is placed on immigration hold or detainer. Even if you make bail,  you will be transferred to federal custody instead of being released. 

DWI seems like a pretty tame offense, but you can be deported depending on your criminal history, previous convictions, and the circumstances of your arrest.

A DWI arrest is not a conviction, and in Texas, the first DWI is typically a Class B misdemeanor if there are no aggravating factors. A second arrest or a first arrest with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% or higher is a Class A misdemeanor. However, a green card holder that can satisfy all the requirements imposed by the court is usually allowed to stay in the country by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

If you receive a third or subsequent DWI offense, are arrested for DWI with a person younger than 15 years in the car, or caused an accident due to drunken driving, you have committed a felony. You could be deported on crimes of moral turpitude.

Other reasons you can get deported after receiving a DWI include:

  • A DWI offense related to drugs
  • Driving on a revoked or suspended license
  • Previous conviction of a crime of moral turpitude
  • A DWI resulting in bodily injury or death

Texas isn’t very forgiving of non-citizens who become involved in any of these crimes. 

Why You Need a Lawyer

If you are a non-citizen arrested or accused of any potential crime that could result in deportation, you need someone experienced in immigration law. A public defender may not have the knowledge to create a strong strategy or defense.

Even though you were arrested for a deportable crime, a knowledgeable attorney might be able to have your charge dismissed or reduced to avoid deportation.

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