What To Do if Convicted as an Immigrant

Mario A. Godoy
What To Do if Convicted as an Immigrant

The beauty of the American justice system is that it can be very forgiving. Often times if you are a first-time offender for an incident, the system will permit you to plead guilty and so long as you stay out of trouble for anywhere between twelve and twenty-four months, the case against you is dismissed in its entirety. Depending on the nature of your case and at the conclusion of its dismissal, your record may be eligible to be expunged anywhere between two and five years from the completion of the case.

For United States citizens, the ability to expunge one’s criminal record is a phenomenal tool. Since the case against you was dismissed, you do not have a conviction on your record for a criminal offense. Because you were not convicted of a crime and it was successfully expunged, the criminal case will not show up on a background check. This is ideal when applying for competitive jobs where a potential employer is looking for any reason to turn down a candidate. However, in the eyes of the federal government, the immigration law is not so forgiving to non-citizens of the United States.

Under the current immigration laws, even plea deals which ultimately end in the dismissal of a case in its entirety still results in a conviction for the non-citizen. Section 101(a)(48)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act renders any guilty plea to be a conviction for immigration purposes when (1) the non-citizen has pled guilty or admits enough facts to have been found guilty by a judge or jury and (2) the judge orders some form of punishment imposed against the non-citizen. This is of both paramount importance and potentially detrimental to non-citizens when bargaining a plea deal in criminal prosecution, as convictions for certain crimes can render the non-citizen both removable from the United States and ineligible from any relief from removal. For instance, a conviction for almost any drug offense guarantees that the non-citizen will be ordered removed from the United States if he or she pled guilty, received probation, and was ordered to pay fines and costs by the criminal judge.

Given the dire nature and extreme consequences a criminal plea deal could have on your ability to stay and remain in the United States, it is important to know all the facts before making a decision that could guarantee your removal. Please schedule an in-person assessment of your case with one of our seasoned immigration attorneys today.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Receive updates on immigration law changes that can affect you