Immigration Consequences of Criminal Cases

If you are not a United States citizen, and you are charged with a crime, the immigration consequences of a conviction could prove to be far more severe than the penal consequences.  Unfortunately, criminal attorneys are often unaware or unconcerned with the devastating  immigration consequences that even minor criminal convictions can have on a non-citizen.  Because of the grave immigration consequences of many criminal convictions or even pleas resulting in dismissal, most jurisdictions recognize that effective criminal defense of a non-citizen often goes well beyond the typical criminal defense.   The effective defense of a non-citizen requires a defense on the criminal charges as well as a defense against possible adverse immigration consequences.

Potential for Deportation

Remarkably even misdemeanor convictions with no jail time can resort in the deportation and permanent exclusion of a non-citizen.  This same result occurs even with residents that have been in the United States for decades, established businesses,  purchased homes, raised families and had no other prior legal problems.  It is surprising to learn that relatively minor charges can result in deportation while far more serious crimes have no immigration consequences at all.   The immigration consequences depend on the classification of the crime.

Charges of Moral Turpitude

Crimes of moral turpitude and aggravated felonies are removable.  It is the crimes of moral turpitude that typically have surprising immigration consequences.  Instincts or general impressions of the seriousness of the crime are unreliable.   If you are not citizen and you are charged with a crime, you attorney’s first task is to determine  the exact immigration consequences of a conviction.  To know this, he must determine if your crime is one of moral turpitude.  Once this determination has been made, the attorney should then determine the immigration consequences of every possible plea deal even those that result in dismissal.

Your Criminal Lawyer must be Aware of Your Immigrant Status

To help you, your attorney must obviously know that you are not a United States citizen.  This is not always apparent to the attorney, and sometimes the attorney may not think to ask.  Therefore, if you are not a United States citizen, your first task is to immediately inform your attorney of this fact.  Your immigration status may dramatically impact the defense strategy.   Failure to inform your attorney of your immigration status could result in catastrophic immigration consequences even with what is an otherwise very good criminal defense.

An Example of Moral Turpitude

A good and rather common example of a trivial crime classified as a crime of moral turpitude is petty shoplifting.  Shoplifting is a crime of dishonesty which carries the classification of crime of moral turpitude.  As a result, neither you nor your attorney may have the luxury of many possible pleas.  In many cases, a prosecutor would offer a variety of different plea options.  Many of these would result in a dismissal of the charges.  Unfortunately, a dismissal is not enough.  Often the plea itself, in contemplation of an eventual dismissal, requires an admission of guilt to the shoplifting offense.  Despite the ultimate dismissal, the admission of guilt alone creates a removable offense.   This same outcome occurs in many other otherwise outstanding plea bargains.  There is a long list of crimes of moral turpitude.  You and your attorney should make sure your crime is not on that list.

The Bottom Line

So what should you do if you are faced with criminal charges, and you are not a citizen of the United States?  You should alert your attorney to this fact at the very first meeting.  You should insist on a thorough analysis of the immigration consequences of not only a conviction but also a plea of any kind, whether it results in a dismissal or not.  To do otherwise could be disastrous to you and your family.  You could win the battle in defeating the prosecution of the criminal matter, while losing the war and everything else due to your eventual deportation from the United States.

For more information or for a discussion of your situation, give us a call or email us at Collins & Collins, P.C.  We will be happy to discuss your claims with you in more depth.

Parrish Collins
Collins & Collins, P.C.
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Collins and Collins Criminal Attorneys


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