Andrew McCoppin, board-certified state and federal criminal defense specialist, understands that past and present criminal charges impact your eligibility for immigration benefits. He works to get you the best possible result in state and federal court, with your immigration needs in mind.
Don’t Do the Felony Diversion Program, Plead Guilty to a Misdemeanor Instead.
If you admit to committing a crime in criminal court, the immigration court will treat that admission as a conviction for deportation proceedings. Often, someone charged with their first low-level felony may participate in the felony diversion program to have all their charges dismissed. For a U. S. citizen, this is a great opportunity. But for a foreign citizen, this program could lead to immediate deportation. To participate in the felony diversion program, normally the defendant must sign a statement admitting that he committed the felony. Immigration court interprets this admission as a felony conviction when considering deportation. For immigration purposes, a foreign citizen would be better off pleading guilty to a less serious misdemeanor offense or entering into a modified agreement than having all charges dismissed through the felony diversion program.
Don’t Bond Out of Jail If You Have an Immigration Detainer.
An immigration detainer requires the local jail to deliver a defendant to immigration custody before releasing him. When a defendant is arrested, the local court usually sets a bond that the defendant must pay to be released from state custody. If a defendant with an immigration detainer posts this state court bond, the jail will not release him. Instead, the jail will deliver the defendant to immigration custody. When the defendant enters immigration custody, immigration often will transport him 9 hours away to begin deportation proceedings in Georgia.
Immigration will not allow the defendant to return to the local court for his court date and the local court will issue a warrant for his arrest for missing court. If the defendant is deported and returns to the United States, the police will have a warrant for his arrest for failing to appear on the local court case. The warrant will lead to the defendant’s arrest and the deportation process begins again. The better choice is for the defendant to sit in jail until his case is resolved. If the criminal case is resolved, the defendant is deported and then returns to the United States, there is no arrest warrant waiting.
Don’t Have Your Charges Expunged (Erased) Unless You are a U.S. Citizen.
The court can dismiss a criminal case for a many different reason. Maybe the defendant was not guilty or the state did not have enough evidence for trial. Sometimes, the defendant may earn a dismissal by completing a diversion program that required him to sign an admission of guilt. If a defendant has his case expunged or erased, then immigration cannot determine why the case was dismissed. Without proof that the criminal charge was dismissed without the defendant’s written admission of guilt, Immigration court may still consider that dismissed criminal charge at deportation proceedings. Unlike criminal court where the state must prove its’ case, Immigration puts the burden on the non-citizen.