Interviewer: Should I contact a lawyer for a free consultation to get an idea of what my immigration status is or what sort of problems I could face?
Brian Geno: Yes, you could. As a matter of fact, many criminal defense attorneys in Northern Virginia contact me and my office to let them know about the immigration consequences of certain possibilities they’re facing in their criminal case and I’ll be able to do an analysis of all the details and I’ll be able to find out from the person what they hope to achieve for immigration purposes. And then, it helps steer the criminal defense attorney in the right direction so that it has either no effect or a minimum effect on their client.
An Immigration Attorney May Be Able to Mitigate the Circumstances for the Benefit of the Client
I had one recently where a person came by and it looked like he was going to be convicted of domestic assault. And that is typically something which is not considered an aggravated felony or a crime involving moral turpitude, it used to be but it isn’t anymore. But in his case, his status was he was just here on a temporary visa and what they wanted to do instead of a conviction for domestic assault was for him to have a permanent protective order. And so, I advised them about how that would be a very bad move for them because it’s considered — well, it would be very bad for his future status; he wouldn’t be able to stay once he try to renew his visa. So, that is a typical example of the kind of thing I would do.
People Can Consult an Attorney Regarding the Impact of Prior Criminal Convictions on the Immigration Process
Interviewer: If someone had an offense maybe like 20 years ago and they weren’t really aware and nothing really happened, could they call you and say, “Hey, could we check up all this and see if there’s something I need to be concerned about?”
Brian Geno: Yes. People can call and should call any time they think they may have a crime that either could get them deported, could prevent them from moving along to the next immigration phase, or just if they got caught, that immigration would notice them. So, one example I had a couple of years ago, a person was a lawful permanent resident and as a resident, he wanted to become a citizen. And so, it was really a desire of his to become a citizen and he asked me to look into it and I did and he had been actually convicted of bigamy; that is married to two different women at the same time.
Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude Always Have an Adverse Effect on Immigration
Because he was convicted of bigamy, I knew that if he applied for citizenship, then immigration would know about it too and then, they might choose to exercise their right under the law and deport him or try to deport him. And so, I told him do not file naturalization, do not bring the subject up again because you could get caught. It’s rare to find a person who’s convicted of bigamy but it happened and I ran into another person who was convicted in Virginia of adultery. Now, nobody gets convicted of adultery in Virginia but this person did and so, that was a crime involving moral turpitude. And so that one, even many years later, could be a problem. So, we had to take very good care to avoid the problems with that.
Federal Law States that Any Kind of Drug Crime is Considered a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude
Interviewer: Are there any particular crimes that you may know that one of them is okay but if they do at multiple occasions, it becomes something of concern?
Brian Geno: Absolutely. One is possession of Marijuana. As a matter of fact, the federal law actually has an exception to the law; any kind of drug crime is considered a crime involving moral turpitude. However, if it happens to be simple possession of Marijuana of less than half an ounce, in Virginia, then you can — they don’t consider that a crime involving moral turpitude. Immigration doesn’t consider that a crime involving moral turpitude and they won’t use that to deport a resident or a person who is TPS, Temporary Protected Status.
The Federal Government has a Petty Offense Exception for Theft Crimes
Another one is what they call the petty offense exception for theft crimes. So, if a person gets petty larceny, that is shop lifting, one time, then the government won’t use that one either, okay. But if you have a petty larceny one time and then, a possession of Marijuana one time, you’ve used up your petty offense exception and then, they will go after you. And that one happens sometimes too. So, if a person commits one petty offense, they can get away with it but two, they don’t.