Criminal Convictions in the U.S.

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Any person who is not a United States citizen, even a longtime permanent resident (“green card” holder), can be deported because of a criminal conviction. What may seem like a great outcome in a criminal case—for example, a guilty plea to a misdemeanor where no jail time has to actually be served—can result in severe immigration consequences, including deportation. This is because the U.S. immigration laws provide for very harsh, and unreasonable, treatment of criminal convictions, even for relatively minor offenses. For example, a person who pleads guilty to misdemeanor shoplifting in Virginia and is given a 12 month suspended sentence (that means no actual jail time has to be served) will be considered to have committed a “crime involving moral turpitude” and, also, an “aggravated felony” under the immigration laws. Under the current state of the law, a crime need not be aggravated, nor even a felony, to be considered an “aggravated felony”—a classification which may have very serious results for the person who takes the guilty plea. Some criminal convictions can result in:

  • Mandatory detention by the immigration authorities
  • Deportability, ineligibility for a green card
  • Ineligibility for many forms of relief as a defense in immigration court
  • Ineligibility for citizenship
  • Severe limitations for any travel outside of the United States.

The intersection of criminal and immigration law is a very complex field of law. The impact of a conviction on any particular immigration case depends on a number of variables. Among these is the person’s current immigration status, his or her eligibility for relief or future benefits, the offense charged, the sentence which was is given, the potential sentence which could be imposed under the law, and the structure of a plea deal, if any. If a person charged with a crime resolves the case through an agreement with the prosecution or a plea, the structure of the plea taken is of the utmost importance. For instance, in the case of deferred adjudications, whether a person pleads “guilty” or “not guilty” can make all the difference in whether he or she is considered to have been “convicted” under the immigration laws.

Similarly, sometimes the length of a sentence—even a single day—can mean all the difference between a person continuing to live here with his or her family and deportation. Often, we see clients when they have been placed into deportation proceedings for a guilty plea taken long ago. They often wish that they had understood the immigration consequences at the time of their criminal case. If they understood the immigration consequences, they would have never accepted the criminal plea which now places them in such jeopardy.

The time to strategize for how a criminal conviction may impact your immigration case is before your trial. For this reason, Dyer Immigration Law Group (DILG) has expanded services to include criminal defense representation. We want our clients to be fully armed with knowledge of both the criminal and immigration consequences of the charges they are facing. Then clients can make the most informed and best decisions possible for their cases and futures. DILG is proud to announce that Mark G. Bong, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Richmond School Of Law, has joined the firm and will focus his practice on criminal and domestic relations issues which will complement our immigration practice. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, the decisions you make now can change your immigration case, your family, and your life in the United States.

To become fully informed so that you can make the best decisions for your case and your future, the time to act is now. Contact us today.

Call us toll free at 1.877.377.1247 to schedule an appointment at our office in Richmond, Virginia. We speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

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