The quick and easy answer is YES. No matter what the crime is for which you were arrested, if you are not a citizen of the U.S., you should immediately begin worrying about how that arrest will effect your immigration status. While the immigration consequences of your criminal prosecution may not be the first thing on your mind while you sit in jail for a crime, it needs to be on the top of the list.
As a criminal defendant in jail, the first thing you are likely thinking about is just getting out of jail as soon as possible, no matter the cost or consequences. However, if you are a criminal defendant, in jail or out, who is not a citizen of the U.S. you need to take your time before accepting or making a plea deal in your criminal case.
You many think that a withhold of adjudication with court costs and a fine is a great deal, and it may be for some people. However, if you are not a citizen of the U.S., pleading to any crime can have direct and long-lasting negative effects on your current immigration status, your ability to obtain a lawful immigration status, or eligibility to apply for citizenship.
As a criminal defendant, your criminal defense attorney, whether retained by you, or provided by the government, must warn you of the immigration consequences of any criminal conviction. The problem is, many criminal defense attorneys do not know the probable or possible immigration consequences of a criminal conviction. Many criminal defense attorneys may believe that a conviction will have no negative immigration consequences unless the crime falls into one of the criminal grounds of inadmissibility under Section 212(a)(2) or deportability under Section 237(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. That is simply not true.
Depending on a non-citizens’ immigration status, a conviction for any crime, even a criminal traffic offense, such as driving under the influence, can have immediate and direct negative immigration consequences. For example, if a non-citizen has temporary protected status (TPS) or DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or hopes to someday apply for either of them, a conviction for any minor criminal offense can potentially bar a person from eligibility.
If you are not a citizen of the U.S. and you have been arrested for a crime, tell your criminal defense attorney as soon as possible that you are not a citizen. Do not assume that your criminal defense attorney knows you are not a citizen. If you can afford to retain your own criminal defense attorney, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney who also has experience and knowledge about immigration law, as they are more likely to be able to assist you in your criminal case while still considering the immigration consequences of any sentence.
The experienced criminal and immigration attorneys at Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon can help you with both your criminal and immigration needs. Our attorneys can effectively represent you in your criminal case while still fighting to protect your immigration status. Call us today to help you with any immigration matter or for a free consultation regarding your criminal case.