If you are charged with a crime and you are not a United States citizen, you could be facing some very serious immigration consequences. If fact, the immigration consequences could be much more serious than the criminal punishment.
On many occasions, a criminal attorney will fail to appropriately consider the immigration consequences of the criminal charges. Many times, the criminal attorney is surprised himself to hear of the severe consequences of seemingly trivial crimes.
On still more occasions, the criminal attorney is able to work out would otherwise be a great plea for the client. The plea might even result in the ultimate dismissal of the case, yet the client is still facing deportation for the crime.
The law is fairly complex and common sense does you no good in this area of the law. For instance, in many cases where the chances at trial are not good for the client, an attorney will work out a conditional discharge or a deferred sentence. In each of these situations, the charges are eventually dismissed upon the completion of the terms of probation.
Unfortunately, both these deals require that a defendant plead guilty to the charges before the plea will be accepted by the court. The plea of guilty despite the later dismissal is enough to trigger deportation for deportable offenses.
Even more surprising to many defendants, and many attorneys, is the fact that relatively trivial offenses, even petty misdemeanors can trigger deportation.
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 a 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. The classification of a crime as a crime of moral turpitude carries the most severe and seemingly unfair penalties.
Crimes of moral turpitude can have shocking immigration consequences. Instincts or general impressions of the seriousness of the crime are unreliable. A good and rather common example of a trivial crime classified as a crime of moral turpitude is petty larceny or shoplifting.
Even petty shoplifting is a crime of dishonesty which carries the classification of crime of moral turpitude. This means you can be deported for conviction of a shoplifting. Not only that, you can be deported even if you are not technically convicted.
Due to the classification as a crime of moral turpitude, you may have the luxury of many possible common and otherwise favorable 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 must know from the outset if your crime is on that list of deportable offenses. If it is, then the entire defense strategy will change. Unfortunately, you may be forced to go to trial on a case that almost always plea if it involved a United States citizen.
To properly defend you, you must inform your attorney of your immigration status from the first moment you meet. Your citizenship may not be apparent, and the attorney may not think to ask. The defense strategy from the very beginning of your case should properly account for the immigration consequences. Failure to inform your attorney of your immigration status could seriously harm your future in the United States.
So what should you do are not a citizen of the United States and you are charged with a crime? You should inform your attorney of your immigration status the first time you speak. You should remind your attorney of your status throughout the process.
Most importantly, you should insist that your attorney thoroughly consider the immigration consequences in the defense strategy and in consideration of any plea offers. If your matter is particularly confusing or complex, then you may need to enlist the services of both a criminal attorney and an immigration attorney.
Don‘t be in the position where you have won the battle in addressing the criminal charges, while losing the war and everything else you hold dear in this country when you are eventually deported.
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