When Can A Conviction Result in Deportation?
First, let me start off by saying that I am not an immigration attorney. My expertise lies in the area of criminal law. However, there are many, MANY, times and situations when the areas of criminal and immigration law intersect. Now, in almost all those situations, the criminal lawyers at Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins will consult with one of our colleagues who specializes in Immigration Law. However, there are certain principles and rules that we have come to expect. Often, the question we need answered is:
If our client pleads guilty or is convicted of a certain crime, will they be deported?
The answer is often more complicated and fact specific than it seems. For instance, recently we represented a 23-year-old young man who had immigrated to New York from Guinea a little over 4 years ago. When he arrived here, although he spoke 3 different languages, none of them were English. He immediately sought employment and over the course of 3 years, by working several different jobs that forced him to interact with people speaking English, he learned the language. During the protests that swept through New York City following the death of George Floyd, our client was present, along with a large group of others, when the door to a small electronics store was shattered. Regretfully, he entered and stole a speaker. Obviously, this was wrong. Our client – along with many others, was charged with very serious, high-level felonies.
Our job was to convince the District Attorney’s Office to not only offer our client a plea that would allow him to stay out of jail, but which would also not get him deported. This would not be easy. Our client immigrated to New York though all the proper, legal channels. At the time of his arrest, he was a legal permanent resident who had a green card. He was – and still is – in the process of applying for citizenship. Simply put, a felony conviction would be devastating to him. While some punishment must certainly be imposed in these situations, should he have been convicted of a felony, or possibly any crime, the non-judicial punishments that would be suffered by him would be calamitous, as the efforts that he had made in this county would be undone, and he would almost certainly by deported.
Nearly all felony offenses are deportable offenses, particularly violent offenses, or those with victims. If someone is not a citizen and they get convicted of a felony, it is hard to imagine that ICE officials would not come looking for them.
In addition, permanent residents – like our client – can be deported for certain misdemeanor offenses, particularly those involving violence or “moral turpitude.” Should our client even be convicted of a lesser, misdemeanor offense, he could still face deportation. This would force him to return to a society and culture that his adult self knows nothing about, and where his family has almost all left. So, we were tasked with convincing the prosecutors to drop a felony all the way down to a non-criminal violation, something that is rarely done. Through hard work, legal arguments, and in-person meetings and discussions with several prosecutors, we were able to make it happen. We were thrilled and our client was overjoyed and relieved, as it appears likely our client will be able to remain in this country with his family.
There are many nuances to how certain results can impact an individual’s immigration status, particularly when the person is sentenced to a time in jail.
For more information or more fact-specific discussions, call our office and ask to speak with attorney Michael Jaccarino.