One of the most common types of cases that our office routinely encounters is helping clients to assess whether pleading guilty to a criminal charge may endanger their immigration status. While every case is extremely fact sensitive, theft under the appropriate circumstances can be considered a “crime involving moral turpitude” or even in some cases, an aggravated felony. In New Jersey, theft is graded according to the value of the merchandise allegedly taken. If a criminal defendant is charged with a theft offense, whether it be shoplifting, theft by unlawful taking, receipt of stolen property, etc., with a value over $200, that crime becomes one that is potentially a fourth degree offense. A fourth degree crime carries a potential term of incarceration up to eighteen months. If one were therefore convicted of a theft crime that is at least a fourth degree offense, that individual could be targeted by ICE as a deportable alien. Whether the alien is in fact deportable is a whole other issue–and there are some defenses available–but the point is, any foreign national who is accused of stealing must consider his/her exposure to removal proceedings.
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