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An aggravated felony charge can change your life forever

You are probably looking over your shoulder a lot lately. With the media reports of immigration issues, you may fear that your status in this country is shaky, at best, even if you are here legally through one of the many U.S. Immigration visa programs, or even if you have qualified for asylum status. You may have friends or family members who have faced removal for reasons that seem minor to you and the result is separation from loved ones.

Nevertheless, your concerns about deportation may have recently increased after police arrested you and charged you with an aggravated felony. Now, the future is uncertain, and you wonder if this charge may mean certain removal from the life you have come to know here in Georgia.

What is an aggravated felony?

An aggravated felony is not necessarily a violent crime. In fact, for natural-born citizens of the United States, the offense of which you are accused may not even be a felony. Aggravated felony is a category of crimes special to immigration law. While originally intended to remove murderers from the country and to stop the flow of illegal drug and weapons trafficking, the law grew to include a variety of crimes.

In fact, periodically, Congress has added new laws to the list so that it now includes over 30 offenses, including theft, lying on a tax return and simple assault. The law also allows the government to add new crimes to the category of aggravated felony. Moreover, if you already have any such crimes on your record before they become aggravated felonies, the government may apply the harsher penalties to you once the crime becomes part of the growing list.

So what are the penalties?

The most important thing for you to know about the charge against you is that, if a court convicts you, the government will deport you. There are very few and rare occasions when an immigrant may remain in the country after such a conviction, but the bottom line is that convictions for aggravated felonies are grounds for immediate and complete removal. In fact, such a conviction may have the following consequences:

  • An immigration judge will administratively deport you without a formal hearing.
  • You will lose eligibility for asylum in this country.
  • You will not be able to seek cancellation of your removal order.
  • The government will not allow you to depart voluntarily instead of leaving under a formal deportation order.
  • Immigration authorities will permanently ban from returning to the United States.

In fact, if you try to return to the country after deportation for the conviction of an aggravated felony, authorities may imprison you for up to 20 years instead of the usual two years for illegal entry.

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