What Immigration Consequences Does a Florida Domestic Violence Conviction Have?
Domestic violence is marked by turmoil within the home, which often results in the accused being forced out of the home - and sometimes, out of the country.
In addition to the criminal consequences one faces for a Florida domestic violence conviction, there is also the potential for immigration consequences - yet another reason those facing charges need to take their defense seriously.
People living in the United States who are not U.S. citizens face deportation if they’re convicted of domestic violence in Florida. This is true even if you’ve lived here since you were a child, and even if the alleged victim was not seriously hurt.
As our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can explain, domestic violence is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Interestingly, one could commit the exact same offense (assault or battery) against someone who is not a family or household member, and it might not be considered a crime of moral turpitude. This is yet another reason anyone facing domestic violence charges needs to take their defense seriously and hire a lawyer who understands all the secondary implications of a conviction. Even if the evidence is stacked against you, your defense lawyer may be able to work out a plea bargain that allows for conviction on a charge that is not domestic violence - thus sparing you from the risk of deportation.What Is a Crime of Moral Turpitude?
Crimes of moral turpitude is a somewhat ambiguous term in that it is not and has never been defined by federal immigration statute or state regulation. It’s been largely left to the judicial and administrative bodies to parse out.
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) generally understands it to mean conduct that’s inherently base, vile, depraved, contrary to accepted moral rules and the duties owed between individuals or generally to society. That’s pretty broad, but as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit noted in the 2022 case of Lauture v. U.S. Attorney General, it must have two elements:
- Conduct that is reprehensible.
- A defendant who was in a culpable mental state.
In other words: It was awful (or at the very least, reckless), and the defendant knew what they were doing. The court will ask whether the least culpable conduct necessary under the statute would still be adequate to meet the standard of a crime of moral turpitude under the law.
It’s not as simple as saying some offenses qualify as crimes of moral turpitude and others don’t. Some assaults might qualify, but others won’t. Some burglaries might qualify, but others won’t. It can depend on the intent and the crimes committed before, during, or after the offense that might determine where it falls on the moral turpitude scale.
It’s often left to the federal courts to determine whether a conviction on a certain Florida crime meets the criteria for deportation based on commission of a crime of moral turpitude.Hire a Florida DV Defense Lawyer Who Understands Immigration Consequences
As noted in 18 U.S.C. 16, there are four bases of the domestic violence deportation ground for non-citizens, which are convictions for:
- Domestic violence.
- Child abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
- Violation of certain portions of a domestic violence protection order.
Beyond the charge itself, federal law requires that deportable domestic violence offenses involve some type of violence. This is defined in the aforementioned statute as an offense that involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another. This becomes a point of contention in states where domestic violence can be charged for acts like “offensive touching” - which don’t necessarily meet the “crime of violence” standard.
Deportation is one outcome. Others include:
- Non-LPR cancellation.
- LPR cancellation.
- Denial under DACA as a “significant misdemeanor.”
Note: Even if one is eligible for deportation on the domestic violence ground, this is not a basis for mandatory detention. Also, if a victim of domestic violence is “cross-charged” with domestic violence, they may be eligible for a victim waiver to avoid deportation - if they can show they were the primary victim. (Florida discourages this type of “cross-charging,” with a statute that strongly urges officers to identify the primary aggressor and primary victim and only arrest one.)
It’s very important if you are arrested for domestic violence in Florida and you are not a U.S. citizen that you work with a Broward criminal defense lawyer who understands the potential immigration consequences of conviction, judicial finding, or violations of probation/injunctions. Do not provide statements, enter pleas, or make any major decisions in your case until you’ve consulted with a qualified attorney.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.