Maryland residents may be aware of their constitutional rights and what to do in case they are facing criminal charges, but what they may not know is that they may not be able to avail various avenues of relief if they are residents but not citizens. American noncitizens who are convicted of committing aggravated felonies may find themselves facing harsh consequences including deportation.
The term is especially confusing because the crime neither needs to be a felony nor aggravated-in this context, it is a group of crimes labeled by the Congress as such that has steadily expanded over time. Where originally the list of crimes did include severe crimes such as murder and trafficking, now it includes offenses such as failing to appear in court and filing a false tax return.
In addition to this, even if the crime was not considered an aggravated felony at the time of conviction but later is classified is one, it can become the grounds for deportation. This means that noncitizens can be deported automatically if their conviction makes it to the list of aggravated felonies, even if it was not when they were convicted.
It is difficult and confusing at times to know which crime is classified as what at a specific time, and it is important to take every charge seriously regardless of how minor it might seem at the time. The consequences of criminal convictions can span a lifetime even when one has repaid their debt to society. Developing a strong criminal defense can be the first step in protecting one's rights.