It is extremely important for foreign nationals in criminal proceedings to seek the advice of an immigration attorney. As illustrated below, in many instances a favorable plea in a criminal case can have disastrous immigration consequences.
A person with no previous criminal record who has been charged with a crime may receive an offer from the prosecutor to plead under a state first offender act (“FOA”). In exchange for a plea of guilty or no contest (“nolo contendere”) under a FOA, the judge will withhold a judgment of guilt and sentence the person to a period of probation. If the person successfully completes probation, they will avoid a conviction.
Under immigration law, though, a conviction is found where a judge enters some form of punishment, penalty or restraint on liberty after:
- A judge or jury has found a person guilty; or
- There has been a plea of guilty or no contest (“nolo contendere”); or
- The person has admitted facts that would warrant a finding of guilty.
For example, with this in mind, assume a long time green card holder is about to plead to his first criminal offense. The person pleads no contest to theft under a FOA. The judge withholds any judgment of guilt, sentences the person to 12 months of confinement, and allows the person to serve the entire period of confinement on probation. The person never serves a day in jail, successfully completes his probation, and can now truthfully state that he has never been convicted of a crime when asked on a job application. What are the immigration consequences?
The person is now deportable for having been convicted of an aggravated felony under immigration law. Additionally, even if the person is eligible for some form of relief from deportation, he can never obtain US citizenship. The person’s sweet deal in criminal court has resulted in an immigration nightmare.
Contact the experienced immigration law attorneys at Antonini & Cohen
If you are not a US citizen and have been charged with any criminal offense, the first thing you should do after hiring a criminal attorney is contact an immigration attorney with a background in criminal matters. The attorneys at Antonini and Cohen Immigration Law Group have vast experience in advising criminal attorneys and their clients in avoiding adverse immigration consequences.
If you have pending criminal charges, contact the attorneys at Antonini and Cohen to avoid endangering your current or future immigration status. Call us at 404.850.9394 or click here to complete a contact form.