Think Twice Before You Decide To Play Nice: Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions

Facing a criminal charge is extremely unnerving and can cause even the strongest of persons to break down and enter a plea in order to resolve their case.  For a United States citizen hoping to avoid jail time or simply move on with their respective lives, the option of a taking a plea can be quite attractive and sometimes offers the best outcome.

However, a non-citizen, or immigrant, defendant needs to be leery of entering a plea before having the competent advice of counsel as many criminal convictions can subject a non-citizen defendant to deportation or render them inadmissible.  As a result of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010), a criminal defense lawyer representing a non-citizen client must advise the client that taking a plea to a given charge may make them deportable.  Further more, criminal defense counsel must advise their client if accepting a plea will subject them to deportation.  In short, a criminal defense lawyer representing non-citizens has a duty to advise their clients of the immigration consequences of their criminal conviction or refer them to an immigration lawyer who may be able to advise them.

A “crime involving moral turpitude” (CIMT) is the most common type of violation that will bring about adverse immigration consequences.  CIMTs are crimes, acts and/or comissions that are inherently evil, go against moral laws, are base or vile, and contrary to what is right and the duty owed by people to one another.  Examples of CIMTs include but are not limited to: theft, robbery, forgery and fraud.

In addition to CIMTs, “aggravated felonies” can cause a non-citizen to be deported.  Defined by Section 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, aggravated felonies are more serious than CIMTs and call for mandatory deportation.

Further muddying the waters is the misconception of the resulting consequences of entering a plea where adjudication of guilt is withheld or the defendant subsequently has the criminal conviction expunged or sealed.

For immigration purposes, a “withhold” of adjudication is considered a conviction under Section 101(a)(48) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  Again, where a U.S. Citizen defendant may avoid being convicted of a crime following a withhold of a adjudication, an immigrant defendant may still face serious immigration consequences stemming from a plea.  Criminal charges and/or convictions that are subsequently expunged or sealed are considered convictions for immigration purposes.  An exception to the above dispositions exists when a pre-trial diversion program is entered into and the non-citizen defendant, never admitting guilt has charges dropped.

Given the intersection between criminal and immigration law, it is imperative to hire an attorney that understands how the two work together and will do everything possible to not only help you avoid jail but also avoid deportation from the United States. If you are a non-citizen facing a criminal charge contact attorney Daniel Izquierdo, a Criminal Immigration lawyer at (305) 707-7345 for a FREE CONSULTATION and Aggressive, Personalized and Compassionate representation.

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