The possibility of incarceration is scary enough on its own, but when a person is not a United States citizen and is accused of a crime, they face additional potential problems that in some cases can be more devastating than the punishment for the underlying offense. This includes those individuals who are in the United States both lawfully and unlawfully. This means that a business person here on an H1B visa for work, a college student here on an F1 visa, and someone who may have been born here to parents who came into the country illegally are all treated just as harshly in the eyes of the law. All of these otherwise law abiding individuals are in real danger of being deported, excluded from the United States, or denied visa renewal or naturalization if they are convicted of even a single offense, which can be as minor as misdemeanor.
These potential consequences are so real and irreparable that judges in Massachusetts are required to give ALL defendants (even US citizens) the following “immigration warnings” at every single plea colloquy they conduct to ensure that every person is apprised of the seriousness of a conviction:
- that, if the defendant is not a citizen of the United States, the guilty plea, plea of nolo contendere, or admission may have the consequence of deportation, exclusion of admission, or denial of naturalization; and
- that, if the offense to which the defendant is pleading guilty, nolo contendere, or admitting to sufficient facts is under federal law one that presumptively mandates removal from the United States and federal officials decide to seek removal, it is practically inevitable that this conviction would result in deportation, exclusion from admission, or denial of naturalization under the laws of the United States.
The problem is that some criminal defense attorneys are not fully trained in the additional complications of criminal charges for non-citizens, so they place their clients in harm’s way unwittingly, with catastrophic results. Some terrible examples I have come across in my practice are:
- defense attorneys who allow their clients to plead to domestic violence related charges because they are only “misdemeanors,” under the mistaken belief that this will not trigger immigration consequences;
- defense attorneys who “bargain down” drug charges to “mere possession,” under the mistaken belief that a conviction for straight possession (as opposed to possession with intent or distribution) will not trigger immigration consequences;
- defense attorneys who convince their clients to accept a continuance without a finding (abbreviated “CWOF”), under the mistaken belief that this disposition is not a conviction (because under MA law it is not), and will not trigger immigration consequences
These are just a few examples of the many ways I have seen clients suffer permanent and irreparable harm based on uninformed or worse, lazy legal counsel. Therefore it is important to have a qualified and experienced lawyer on your side to defend you from both your criminal charge, and from any potential immigration consequences. While a dismissal/nolle prossequi or not guilty verdict are the best possible results in a case with immigration consequences, there are some other results that can prevent the triggering of immigration consequences. You need an advocate on your side who can secure an immigration friendly result in your criminal case. While I have been able to vacate pleas or obtain new trials for people facing deportation, denial of naturalization, or exclusion of admission, it is always better to avoid the immigration consequences in the first place, rather than try to collaterally attack them at a later date.
Call Attorney Rakhlin for a FREE consultation regarding the immigration issues associated with your criminal case: (617) 564-0466