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What happens when a non US citizen is charged with a crime?
Facing a criminal charge is a very stressful, embarrassing, and difficult situation. The difficulty of the situation is exponentially compounded when the person who is facing a criminal charge is not a US citizen. This is because non-citizens have to deal with not only the criminal penalties that are possible, but also with the very real possibility of deportation, denial of naturalization, or exclusion from the United States. This means that non-citizens need the absolute best possible criminal defense, along with an attorney who is thoughtful about the potential consequences to their immigration status.
While Rakhlin Law is not an immigration-focused Law Firm, after years of representing non-citizens Attorney Rakhlin is keenly aware of the types of dispositions that are favorable for non-citizens. To explain briefly, those dispositions are Not Guilty verdicts, dismissals, and in some situations pre-trial probation. Any disposition outside of those is highly likely to trigger an immigration consequence. Furthermore, even if a non-citizen is able to attain one of those dispositions, they will still have to answer questions about their criminal case when dealing with their citizenship status. It is important to craft a strategy early on of how those questions will be answered. Furthermore it is important to always keep the criminal case in mind when any travel outside of the United States, or within the United States by airplane, is contemplated.
Can I continue to travel outside the US?
Generally speaking, there will be no issue getting on a plane to fly out of the country, but upon reentry a non-citizen could face detention even with the mere fact that they have an open criminal case, not even a conviction. Many individuals who have open criminal cases would be well advised to avoid international travel while those cases are pending, but if the travel is unavoidable, then at a minimum the individual should obtain a certified copy of the criminal case docket sheet close in time to when they are departing the United States. This way they will have some official documentation that they have not been convicted, and are merely accused of a crime. That being said, additional screening and scrutiny should be expected. This is particularly true in light of the policies espoused by the Trump Administration. Crackdowns on non-citizens have been more prevalent, deportations more aggressive, and general lack of tolerance for non-citizens has been overwhelmingly apparent. While it has been the policy of the federal government to deport non-citizens convicted of certain types of offenses for a long time, the implementation of this policy has been much more prevalent under the current Administration. Therefore, even though in the past some individuals may have been able to stay in the United States despite criminal convictions, that type of leniency should not be expected any longer with our new President.
It is very important to disclose and discuss your immigration status with your attorney at the start of a case so that your interest can be well represented both in the criminal context and in the immigration context. It is considered ineffective assistance of counsel for an attorney not to advise a client regarding possible immigration consequences, but it would be foolish of the client not to highlight that issue up front. If you or someone you know is a non-citizen who is facing criminal charges, it is imperative that they work with an attorney who is experienced in representing individuals with those issues. Please call Rakhlin Law at 617-564-0466 for a free consultation to discuss your options and the best strategy to make sure that you are successful in your criminal case and can remain in the United States legally.