Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 10.86 I. Level of Offense

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Certain immigration statutes attach immigration consequences to one or more “felony” or “misdemeanor” convictions.  These statutes, however, often do not define these terms with any specificity.  Various definitions of “felony” are discussed in § 10.87, infra.  Immigration consequences of one or more felony convictions are discussed in § § 10.88-10.91, infra.


                Definitions of “misdemeanor” and their immigration consequences are discussed in § 10.92, infra.  Infractions and other more minor offenses, and their immigration consequences, are discussed in § 10.93, infra.





Felony and Misdemeanor Federal Chart as prepared by Federal Defender office:
CRIMINAL DEFENSE " SENTENCE " FEDERAL MISDEMEANOR STATUTES (Aug. 18. 2011) (comprehensive list of federal misdemeanors carrying maximum possible sentence of one year in custody).
In Apr., 2011, the Washington State Legislature redefined the maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor to 364 Days, one day lower than the one-year sentence imposed required for many aggravated felonies, see N. TOOBY & J. ROLLIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE OF IMMIGRANTS 10.66 (2007), and one day lower than the maximum required to make a single crime of moral turpitude deportable. INA 237(a)(2)(A)(i). This law will not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the 2011 legislative session, but it is worth arguing now that Washington judges should stop imposing 365-day sentences for gross misdemeanors. In arguing for this, counsel can quote the legislative intent section of the bill which states: The legislature finds that a maximum sentence by a court in the state of Washington for a gross misdemeanor can, under federal law, result in the automatic deportation of a person who has lawfully immigrated to the United States, is a victim of domestic violence or a political refugee, even when all or part of the sentence to total confinement is suspended. The legislature further finds that this is a disproportionate outcome, when compared to a person who has been convicted of certain felonies which, under the state's determinate sentencing law, must be sentenced to less than one year and, hence, either have no impact on that person's residency status or will provide that person an opportunity to be heard in immigration proceedings where the court will determine whether deportation is appropriate. Therefore, it is the intent of the legislature to cure this inequity by reducing the maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor by one day. For courts that are unwilling to sentence persons to less than 365 days, counsel can make a record by citing State v. Grayson, 154 Wn.2d 333 (2005). In Grayson, the court categorically denied granting DOSA sentences, upon the belief that there was insufficient funding for the DOSA program for it to be effective. This was found to be an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court held that a trial court abuses discretion when it fails to consider alternative sentences. Id. at 342; see also State v. Garcia-Martinez, 88 Wn.App. 322, 330 (1997). New Mexico, Wisconsin and Illinois are other states that also have 364-day maximum sentences for some misdemeanors. Thanks to Jonathan Moore and Ann Benson.