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What Happens When an International Student is Arrested or Charged with a Crime?

international IDs on a tabletop

When international students are charged with a crime, they face not only criminal charges, but possible removal and deportation from the United States. Certain convictions can also make them inadmissible to the U.S., even if the crime is a misdemeanor under Indiana law. International students who are convicted of a crime of moral turpitude with a possible penalty of one year or longer are deportable. The term "moral turpitude" does not have a precise meaning, but includes crimes that involve fraud or that create a danger to others. If an international student is charged with a crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal attorney. It is also prudent to engage an immigration lawyer.

Controlled substance offenses are deportable offenses, other than a single offense for possession of marijuana under 30 grams. However, conviction of possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is an inadmissible offense. If convicted of an offense of inadmissibility, the student will not be deported, but once he or she leaves the United States, they will not be able to reenter. Controlled substance offenses are excluded from the "petty offense" exception of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Pleading to an alternate count of visiting a common nuisance would not help, because it is both a crime of inadmissibility and a crime of deportability under Immigration and Nationality Act.

Purdue students should be aware that the entry of a Conditional Discharge Agreement on a possession of marijuana case constitutes a conviction for immigration purposes, because the defendant is required to admit the elements of the crime. Even though a conviction is not formally entered under Indiana law, it can result in inadmissibility under immigration law.

International students at Purdue and IU charged with a substance offense, such as possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine, or visiting or maintaining a common nuisance, should contact an experienced criminal attorney immediately. International students charged with a crime involving dishonesty, such as forgery, theft, or fraud, may also be subject to deportation. Certain traffic offenses could also make an alien deportable. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that aggravated fleeing from a police officer, as defined under Illinois law, is a crime of moral turpitude. The crime in question is similar to Indiana’s statute defining resisting law enforcement with a vehicle.

No college student should ever appear in court without an attorney. Gibson Law Office has a statewide practice with offices in Lafayette, Indiana and Bloomington, Indiana. Our attorneys have represented college students at Purdue University, Indiana University, Wabash College, Ball State, Indiana State, IUPUI, IPFW, and Notre Dame. Our attorneys have represented students charged with crimes ranging from minor consumption of alcohol and public intoxication to major felonies, such as rape and drug dealing. College students sometimes fail to appreciate the seriousness of certain misdemeanor charges, such as minor consumption of alcohol, public intoxication, and possession of marijuana, and appear in court without an attorney. This can be particularly dangerous for international students. If you are an international student charged with a crime, you should never appear on court without an experienced criminal lawyer.