Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 17.14 1. Aggravated Felony Conviction

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Noncitizens should strenuously avoid any conviction that could be considered an aggravated felony.[137]  A finding of removability as an aggravated felon bars almost all forms of relief from deportation, may bar relief from inadmissibility as well.  A noncitizen removed as an aggravated felon is permanently barred from coming back to the United States to live.[138]  An aggravated felon who illegally re-enters the United States may be imprisoned for up to 20 years upon prosecution for illegal re-entry.[139]  A noncitizen with an aggravated felony conviction may also be permanently ineligible for naturalization, since s/he may not be able to show Good Moral Character.[140]


                The basic elements of the aggravated felony grounds of deportation are: (1) alienage; (2) conviction; (3) after admission; and (4) of an offense qualifying as an aggravated felony.  Unless each of these elements exists, the noncitizen is not deportable on account of this ground of deportation.  Whether a particular offense meets the federal “aggravated felony” definition is discussed in more detail in Chapter 19, infra.


                The most comprehensive discussion of the elements of each aggravated felony conviction is contained in N. Tooby & J. Rollin, Aggravated Felonies (2006), which includes two appendices (updated monthly online) listing all known cases determining whether a particular conviction falls within a particular Aggravated Felony category.[141] 

[137] INA § 101(a)(43), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43).

[138] INA § 212(a)(9)(A)(i), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(9)(A)(i).

[139] INA § 276(b)(2), 8 U.S.C. § 1326(b)(2).

[140] See § 15.6, infra.

[141] See N. Tooby, J. Rollin, Aggravated Felonies, Appendix A (2006).