If you’re an immigrant in the United States, facing criminal charges can have serious consequences that extend far beyond fines or imprisonment. Navigating the complexities of both criminal and immigration law can be overwhelming, as a conviction could potentially impact your ability to remain in the country.

Understanding Immigration Status and Criminal Convictions

Accurately assessing the impact of criminal convictions on immigration status is critical for both legal professionals and affected individuals. The following are some of the key immigration statuses affected by criminal charges and convictions:

Permanent Residents

Permanent residents, often referred to as Green Card holders, are individuals who have been granted the right to live and work in the United States. They enjoy many of the same rights as citizens but are not yet full citizens themselves.

Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented immigrants are individuals residing in the United States without legal authorization. This group may include those who entered the country unlawfully or those who overstayed their visas.

Visa Holders

Visa holders are individuals in the United States on temporary permits for specific purposes, such as work, study, or tourism. Visas are typically categorized based on their purpose, such as student visas (F-1), work visas (H-1B), or tourist visas (B-2).

Potential Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions 

A conviction for certain criminal offenses in Ohio can result in severe immigration consequences. It is imperative for non-citizens to understand the specific risks involved. These consequences include:


Depending on the nature of the crime, certain offenses can trigger automatic deportation proceedings. Once deported, individuals may face difficulties or find it impossible to return to the United States, often being permanently barred from reentry.


A criminal conviction can also render a non-citizen inadmissible to the United States. Inadmissibility means that the individual is not allowed to enter the country or adjust their immigration status. This can have long-term repercussions, affecting the ability to visit family, pursue educational opportunities, or take on employment roles within the United States.

Impact on Citizenship Applications

For those seeking U.S. citizenship, a criminal record can significantly delay or completely obstruct the naturalization process. Certain crimes are thought to demonstrate a lack of good moral character, a requirement for citizenship. As such, individuals with these convictions may have their applications denied.

Loss of Status

Criminal convictions may also lead to the revocation of existing lawful permanent resident status. Non-citizens with green cards may find themselves stripped of their legal status and subsequently subject to removal from the United States. This is particularly true for those convicted of aggravated felonies or crimes involving moral turpitude.


Upon arrest and conviction, non-citizens may be subject to immigration detainers, which can lead to prolonged detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Being detained can create additional barriers in legal proceedings and complicate efforts to counteract deportation.

Understanding the severe immigration consequences of criminal convictions is crucial for non-citizens to navigate the complexities of U.S. immigration law effectively.

Types of Crimes and Their Immigration Implications

Crimes can be broadly categorized into several types, each with distinct characteristics and consequences related to immigration:

Misdemeanors vs. Felonies

In Ohio, crimes are generally classified into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are considered less severe offenses and often result in lighter penalties, such as fines or short-term incarceration in local jails. 

Common examples of misdemeanors include petty theft and disorderly conduct. 

Felonies are more serious crimes that carry stiffer penalties, including long-term imprisonment in state or federal institutions. Felony offenses can encompass a wide range of activities, from burglary and drug trafficking to more violent crimes such as assault or homicide.

Crimes and Immigration Status

Certain criminal offenses in Ohio can have severe implications for non-citizens, particularly when it comes to deportation or other immigration-related issues. 

Aggravated Felonies

Aggravated felonies are a category of crimes that U.S. immigration law treats as especially severe. These offenses can include serious crimes like murder, rape, and trafficking in drugs or firearms. Conviction of an aggravated felony can lead to significant prison sentences and result in expedited deportation and a permanent bar on reentry into the United States.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Crimes of moral turpitude refer to actions that gravely violate the accepted standards of the community, encompassing offenses like fraud, theft, and domestic violence. A conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can severely jeopardize a non-citizen’s ability to obtain or maintain lawful immigration status. Individuals convicted of these crimes may face deportation and find it challenging to reenter the country or secure future visas or immigration benefits.

Understanding the classifications and implications of different crimes in Ohio is crucial for anyone navigating the criminal justice system, especially non-citizens facing potential immigration consequences.

Navigating the intersection of criminal and immigration law requires strategic planning and expert legal guidance. Below are some legal defense strategies that non-citizens can employ to mitigate the potential immigration consequences of criminal convictions:

Plea Bargaining

When non-citizen defendants are facing criminal charges in the United States, plea bargaining plays a pivotal role, as it offers an alternative to going to trial. A guilty or no contest plea may lead to lesser charges, reduced penalties, or dismissals in exchange for a quick resolution of the legal case. 

Even if the charges against an immigrant are severe, a criminal defense attorney with experience in immigration law can formulate the wording of the plea deal in a way that can reduce the immigration consequences.

Challenging the Charges

Aggressively contesting the charges is another strategy. This can include challenging the legality of the police stop or arrest, disputing the evidence presented by the prosecution, or questioning the reliability of witness testimonies. Successful legal challenges may result in the dismissal of charges or an acquittal.

Diversion Programs

Diversion programs offer an invaluable opportunity for non-citizens who are facing criminal charges to potentially avoid a conviction and the related adverse immigration implications. These programs are alternatives to traditional court proceedings and sentencing, focusing on rehabilitation rather than punishment. They can take various forms, such as pre-trial diversion, drug court, mental health treatment programs, anger management classes, or community service, among others.

When the program is successfully completed, the charges are often dismissed, meaning the defendant will avoid immigration consequences related to conviction. 

Implementing these legal defense strategies effectively requires a deep understanding of both criminal and immigration law, making it essential to seek guidance from attorneys specialized in these areas.

Contact Our Experienced Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyers To Minimize Immigration Consequences

If you’re not a United States citizen and you are facing charges, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with a Cincinnati criminal defense attorney.