People who live in the United States on a temporary basis, while on a Green card, or as a temporary Resident, face much more harsh consequences by receiving a criminal conviction. Non-U.S. citizens who are convicted of misdemeanor or felony crimes may be deported from the United States as a result of the criminal conviction under specific circumstances.
Further, people who are not United States citizens, a conviction can also result in denial of naturalization or citizenship in the future.
Because of these issues, it is extremely important to always be honest with your Criminal Defense Attorney about what your status is. Telling your attorney that you are a citizen, when you are not even documented, will only hurt you. That is because other avenues of Immigration Safe Plea Bargains cannot be looked into without your attorney knowing your situation.
There are three categories of charges that should be avoided when talking about a plea bargain:
- A moral turpitude crime,
- A crime of violence, or
- An aggravated felony.
These types of crimes result in harsh consequences for immigrant clients. Keep in mind that Immigration Law is Federal law, not California Law, so these are not generally the types of charges you find in California Criminal charges. Instead, it is how a Federal Court interprets or understands the State Criminal Charges. That is why you will not find these examples in a Penal Code section. Federal Law is always changing, and becoming more and more severe and difficult for people to remain in the United States. Matters are also made worse if a Non-U.S. citizen already has a prior record before picking up one of the above three categories of charges.
An aggravated felony is any felony conviction where the jail or prison sentence is longer than one year. Therefore, if you plead guilty to a charge of PC 288(a), and are sentenced to 3 years in State Prison, Federal Law would consider this an aggravated felony. This would mean you could be convicted or plead guilty to this charge, and upon your date of release, an I.C.E. agent picks you up from prison, and transports you to Immigration custody, to begin deportation proceedings.
A crime of moral turpitude is known as a bad thought, crime such as drug sales, murder, grand theft, robbery, burglary, sex crimes, perjury, welfare fraud, etc. These cases happen while you have an evil thought or design while carrying out the criminal offense. This is why theft charges, where you are dealing with stealing from another, are evil thoughts and characterized as Crimes of Moral Turpitude.
This is why crimes like DUI, possession of a deadly weapon or Drunk in Public are not generally considered crimes of moral turpitude under Federal Law.
A crime of violence is any crime that is committed by using violence such as robbery, rape, domestic violence, kidnapping, hostage taking, murder, etc. However, crimes like grand theft or involuntary manslaughter do not always involve violence. Grand theft, for example, can be accomplished without the driver or owner of the vehicle even being present. Whereas robbery requires another person present for the crime to be accomplished.
In many cases, your attorney can negotiate a criminal conviction in such a way as to avoid deportation for the immigrant client. This is where immigration safe pleas come into play. This occurs when your attorney is able to speak with the prosecutor in order to reduce your charge to something that is not one of the three categories above. An experienced criminal defense attorney will generally know when a crime could lead to possible immigration attorneys.
Sometimes, an immigration attorney and a criminal defense attorney can work together to ascertain the immigrant’s exceptions to deportation (Amnesty, Waiver, Asylum, etc) in light of the chances of success at a jury trial. It is not always possible to enter into a plea agreement to a different charge, but any person charged with a crime that would lead to deportation is required to advise their client of these potential problems.
If you cannot change the name of the criminal charge, there is also the possibility of changing the sentence associated with the charge, or by changing the language in the criminal conviction. For example, if a person is in custody for several months, they can enter into a plea agreement for less than 365 days, but they can waive the time they have credit for. No person wants to do this, as it gives them more custody time, but it is sometimes your only option if you could face deportation.
United States born citizens cannot be deported. Both legal and illegal immigrants may be deported upon certain criminal convictions. Green card holders, permanent resident aliens, immigrants with work permits or travel visas are not completely protected from deportation upon certain criminal convictions.
At Inland Empire Criminal Defense, our Ontario Criminal Defense attorney has handled hundreds of criminal cases involving possible immigration consequences. In addition, our law firm also works closely with several extremely experienced and extremely helpful Immigration attorneys to assist in your representation and available for any questions that may arise. You need a competent attorney willing to understand and protect your rights not simply in criminal court, but keeping you advised, and assisting in possible collateral issues, such as immigration consequences upon a guilty plea. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorney today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.