Many people come to the United States because they want a brighter future. For most immigrants, the idea of a brighter future does not include winding up arrested by police. However, anything from being in the wrong place at the wrong time to a lack of familiarity with local ordinances could mean that a well-meaning immigrant gets arrested.

Given that there are strict rules about immigration and criminal records, those who have entered the United States but have not yet secured a Green Card may worry about how an arrest will affect their immigration status.

An arrest alone likely won’t cause issues

Police can sometimes make mistakes on the job that result in them arresting someone wrongly. Perhaps the person they arrested was wearing the same outfit as a suspect who just fled the scene of a nearby robbery, but the person arrested has an airtight alibi for the moment of the crime itself. Maybe police misunderstood something they heard from dispatch or misinterpreted the situation and wrongfully thought a crime had occurred.

People can get arrested and even spend the night in jail without ever facing criminal charges. Simply getting arrested won’t necessarily impact your immigration case. However, if the state brings charges against you, that could influence your ability to adjust your status and secure a Green Card, particularly if the courts convict them of a significant criminal offense.

What criminal offenses could affect your immigration status?

There are crimes that have victims and societal costs, and then there are crimes that are incredibly common, such as intentionally violating a posted speed limit. When looking at the criminal record of someone hoping to adjust their status, many offenses could impact how the courts rule.

When it comes to a risk of deportation, however, the courts worry primarily about crimes of moral turpitude. These are crimes that indicate a lack of good moral behavior or ethical decision-making. This term is intentionally broad and leaves much discretion to the individual judge overseeing an immigration case.

Defending against the criminal charges and avoiding a conviction will go a long way toward limiting the impact of an arrest and subsequent charges on the life of an immigrant hoping to become a lawful permanent resident.