Felony Grand Larceny is not an Aggravated Felony


Grand Larceny not an Immigration Aggravated Felony

For years Virginia felony grand larceny was deemed an aggravated felony for Immigration purposes, which means most likely a person with this conviction would be removed or would not be allowed to receive almost any immigration benefit. On December 23, 2014, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which issues controlling decisions for Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina on ruled in Omargharib v. Holder that a conviction for grand larceny in Virginia (VA Code Ann. 18.2-95) is not an "aggravated felony" under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The Legal Stuff

Often times a "modified categorical approach" is used to analyze criminal laws in the context of immigration, meaning if a statute (or law) is written in a way to encompass different actions to lead to a conviction, a special type of legal analysis is conducted. The Fourth Circuit in this case, consistent with the Supreme Court 2013 ruling in Descamps v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2276 (2013), concluded that the Virginia crime of larceny is not divisible. Therefore the "modified categorical approach" does not apply, bur rather the regular "categorical approach."

The Best Part

Very revealing was the Fourth Circuit's logic and conclusion on how to determine if a state crime is an aggravated felony using the categorical approach. The court stated:

Under that [categorical] approach, we consider only the elements of the statute of conviction rather than the defendant's conduct underlying the offense. Descamps, 133 S. Ct. at 2285 (stating that the categorical approach's "central feature" is "a focus on the elements, rather than the facts, of a crime"). If the state offense has the same elements as the generic INA crime, then the prior conviction constitutes an aggravated felony. See id., 133 S. Ct. at 2283. But, if the state law crime "sweeps more broadly" and criminalizes more conduct than the generic federal crime, the prior conviction cannot count as an aggravated felony. Id. This is true "even if the defendant actually committed the offense in its generic form." Id. (emphasis added).

That would mean unless there is an exact match between the state statute and the federal statute, under the categorical approach, the crime will not be an aggravated felony. Good news for many non-citizens who are or have been accused of an aggravated felony.

What does this mean for non-citizens?

If you have been denied US Citizenship, have been ordered removed or deported from the United States, or ever been denied a US Immigration benefit because you were accused of being convicted of grand larceny (or possibly other aggravated felonies), you should consult with a qualified Immigration Attorney to determine if you can re-open your case or re-apply for a US Immigration benefit.

Contact the Law Offices of Ricky Malik, PC to schedule a consultation or to find out more about this issue.