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Impact of Arrests and Criminal Convictions on Immigration

When you are in the United States as an immigrant, whether you are undocumented or not or whether your stay is temporary or permanent, you still have to obey the laws of this country and the laws of each state. On the other hand, the police and other law enforcement agencies must uphold your rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution and each state constitution.

If you encounter law enforcement and are charged with a crime, it's very important to your immigration status that you seek a competent, aggressive criminal defense attorney. Depending on what your immigration status is and what the crime and nature of the crime is, you could face – upon conviction – a sentence that includes incarceration and fines. But then, unlike other persons convicted of the same crime, you may also face deportation. This is probably one of the most serious collateral consequences any alleged criminal offender can face.

Vitaly Sigal understands how serious an arrest of a noncitizen in California is. Your life, maybe your entire life, may have been spent in the United States, and for one act, you could see your life completely turned upside down. Vitaly Sigal will develop a strong  defense and use the tools at his disposal, including things as simple as Requests for Continuance so that he can continue to negotiate with the prosecuting agency when it's in the best interest of his client – in light of the immigration consequences.

Deportation's Role in a Non-Citizen's Criminal Case

The immigration consequences a noncitizen may face when charged with a criminal offense in California is disproportionate to the penalties other defendants receive for the very same crime. Deportation has, through the Padilla v. Kentucky case, become an integral part of charging decisions, dispositions, and sentencing when the alleged offender is a non-citizen.

In the Opinion for U.S. Supreme Court case Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S.Ct. 1473, 1486 (2010), it states that

informed consideration of possible deportation can only benefit both the State and noncitizen defendants during the plea-bargaining process

and that

[b]y bringing deportation consequences into this process, the defense and prosecution may well be able to reach agreements that better satisfy the interests of both parties.

As a result, prosecutors should consider the adverse consequence of deportation if an alleged offender is convicted. Prosecutors should also consider these adverse consequences in plea negotiations, charging decisions, and sentencing. For example, the prosecutor may choose to offer a plea with fewer immigration consequences. The Court in Padilla v. Kentucky (p. 1486) stated that, as in the case of Padilla v. Kentucky

a criminal episode may provide the basis for multiple charges, of which only a subset mandate deportation following conviction. Counsel who possess the most rudimentary understanding of the deportation consequences of a particular criminal offense may be able to plea bargain creatively with the prosecutor in order to craft a conviction and sentence that reduces the likelihood of deportation, as by avoiding a conviction for an offense that automatically triggers the removal consequence. At the same time, the threat of deportation may provide the defendant with a powerful incentive to plead guilty to an offense that does not mandate that penalty in exchange for a dismissal of a charge that does.

Ideally, the prosecutor and defense attorney would put forth efforts to help make sure the defendant does not face the added penalty of deportation. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Prosecutors are sometimes ruthless. A noncitizen who faces the added penalty of deportation upon a conviction must always seek a criminal defense attorney who understands Padilla v. Kentucky and who can use that case as a tool – one of many – to help his clients protect their immigration status and fight criminal charges.

What Crimes Are More Likely to Get a Noncitizen Deported?

According to the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, convictions of certain crimes can get a person removed or deported. These crimes are categorized as:

  1. Crimes of moral turpitude;
  2. Aggravated felonies;
  3. Controlled substances offenses;
  4. firearms offenses;
  5. Domestic violence crimes; and
  6. Crimes against the United States or U.S. citizens.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Crimes of moral turpitude (CIMT) include offenses like:

If you were admitted to the U.S. within that last five years or ten years if you have a U.S. green card, committed one of these crimes, and was sentenced to one or more years in prison, then you can be deported.  

Aggravated Felonies

Aggravated felonies include crimes like:

  • illegal drug or firearms trafficking
  • murder
  • prostitution and related offenses
  • rape
  • sexual abuse of a minor
  • theft crimes for sentences of more than one year.

It doesn't matter how long you have been in the United States when if you have committed and been convicted of one of these crimes – including overlapping CIMT crimes of rape and murder – you will likely face deportation. Further, unlike other deportable offenses, you are permanently barred from returning to the United States if convicted of an aggravated felony and deported because of it. 

Controlled Substances Offenses

Illegally selling, possessing, manufacturing, or any other activity involving controlled substances can mean deportation in California if convicted. The only exception is some marijuana cases – depending on the amount of marijuana unlawfully in your possession.

Firearms Offenses

You can be deported if you are convicted of selling, purchasing, owning, exchanging, purchasing, carrying, using a firearm unlawfully in California. In most cases, you will only face deportation in California if the firearms offense is a federal one.

Crimes Against the United States or U.S. Citizens

Crimes against the United States or U.S. citizens that can get you deported include:

  • espionage
  • treason
  • acts of terrorism.

Contact a Smart, Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney in Los Angeles Today

If you are a noncitizen and have been charged with a criminal offense in Los Angeles,  you need an advocate who will aggressively defend against the charges and who understands the true nature of what's at stake and will protect your rights as an immigrantContact Sigal Law Group today to schedule a consultation.