Immigration and Criminal Charges

O'Grady Law Office, P.C., represents clients who are concerned about the immigration effects of a criminal conviction. Please contact us online for a free phone consultation to speak to a lawyer about your immigration concerns.

Criminal Convictions and Immigration Consequences

When an undocumented immigrant is convicted of a crime, it is quite possible that the prosecutor will alert ICE authorities (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and immigrant will be placed in removal proceedings. Additionally, many long-time permanent residents who are convicted of a crime wrongly assume that they are safe from deportation because they have a green card, and are surprised when they find themselves placed in deportation proceedings because of a minor crime.

To compound the situation, many criminal defense attorneys fail to adequately consider their client's immigration status when making a plea. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court attempted to solve this problem, when the court ruled that criminal attorneys have a duty to explain the consequences of pleading guilty.

Still, many criminal defense attorneys do not understand the immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a criminal offense, and incorrectly advise their clients to plead guilty. Some criminal defense attorneys erroneously advise their immigrant clients that if they plead guilty and receive a sentence of supervision, then their immigration status won't be affected, because under criminal law, a sentence of supervision isn't considered to be a conviction. Wrong! In immigration court, a guilty plea and/or supervision is always viewed as a conviction, and could cause an immigrant to be deported. Thus, conduct that does not count as a conviction in criminal court can be considered a conviction in immigration court.

Bottom line: Don't plead guilty! Always speak with an experienced immigration attorney before entering into any plea agreement. Pleading guilty to certain crimes will often lead to deportation. It's best to find an immigration attorney to work in conjunction with your criminal defense attorney to find a legal remedy that will avoid deportation.

If you think this is confusing, you should definitely consider hiring an experienced immigration lawyer, who can review your criminal history and determine whether you are deportable from the U.S. If you are deportable, then an experienced immigration attorney will be able to determine if you are eligible for any form of relief, such as asylum, adjustment of status, cancellation of removal, waivers, etc.

I'm a green card holder, and I have a criminal conviction on my record. Can I apply for citizenship or some other immigration benefit? Is it safe for me to travel outside of the U.S. for a brief trip?

Every year, thousands of legal permanent residents apply for an immigration benefit, such as naturalization, and then find themselves placed in deportation proceedings — because of long-forgotten minor criminal convictions. Sometimes a crime is so minor that an immigrant wrongly assumes that the crime was not a deportable offense. What constitutes a "deportable offense" has changed over the years. In this post-9/11 world, even the most minor offense can be a deportable offense, such as misdemeanor shoplifting, a minor domestic battery incident and possession of a small amount of marijuana. Often, an immigrant is surprised to learn that a minor criminal offense that occurred many years ago, at a time when it was not a deportable offense, is now a deportable offense, and, thus, has caused the immigrant to be placed in removal proceedings.

Bottom line: Anyone arrested or charged with a crime should have their record reviewed by an immigration law expert before filing any immigration application, and before travelling outside of the U.S., because you may unintentionally alert ICE.

that you were convicted of a deportable crime, which could lead ICE placing you in deportation proceedings.

If I Get My Criminal Record Expunged, Am I Safe?

While a conviction may be expunged for many purposes (such as a job application), it does NOT wipe your record clean for immigration purposes. The government will ALWAYS be able to see your arrest records, even though the records have been expunged. So for immigration purposes, an expungement will not help you.