The most severe impact of any defendant’s criminal conviction is potential immigration consequences for legal residents that are not citizens. In fact, in Padilla v. Kentucky (2010), the United States Supreme Court held that immigration consequences from criminal convictions form an integral part of the penalty imposed on non-citizen defendants, and that defense counsel must accurately inform non-citizen defendants of the immigration consequences that follow from a guilty plea. Even though the United States Supreme Court requires criminal defense attorneys to give proper immigration advice, many criminal defense attorneys do not understand the overlap between immigration law and criminal law. If you are a non-citizen facing criminal charges, your life depends on hiring an experienced Newport Beach criminal defense attorney who is intimately familiar with all the immigration consequences of your criminal case.
When any non-citizen is convicted of a crime, they are possible immigration consequences. Currently, the laws regarding immigration consequences are well-known, but the laws are constantly changing. It is important to hire an attorney that is up to date on immigration consequences for criminal convictions when choosing to hire a criminal attorney.
Non-citizens can be here legally and illegally. Legal residents of this country include lawful permanent residents, also known as green card holders, people here on student visas or work visas, and legal refugees or people who have been granted asylum. Legal residents also include minor children of people in these categories.
There are two main types of immigration consequences for criminal convictions – denial of admission (which includes denial of naturalization), and deportation (pursuant to 8 USC 1227(a)(2)). Some criminal convictions lead to a denial of admission but not deportation. Some criminal convictions lead to deportation, but not a denial of admission. Many criminal convictions lead to both. You need a criminal defense attorney experienced with immigration consequences to help you minimize your immigration consequences. For a more detailed analysis of deportation and denial of admission, visit our FAQ.
Immigration law is governed by federal statutes and federal cases. Immigration courts follow federal law. California state law has no impact on immigration courts. The guidelines for whether a crime has immigration consequences depend on federal guidelines. However, most defendants face state criminal charges as opposed to federal criminal charges, and thus immigration courts are forced to interpret whether a particular state crime meets the federal guidelines for whatever immigration consequences might be imposed.
For example, any conviction involving controlled substances (other than a single possession for one’s own use with less than 30 grams of marijuana) leads to deportation. Drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy are considered controlled substances under both federal and state law. However, there are some controlled substances that are illegal under California law that are NOT illegal under federal law. A criminal defense attorney that can convince the prosecution to change the drug charges in a way that does not conflict with federal law will save a defendant from immigration consequences.
In October 2017, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 54 – legislation that officially made California a sanctuary state. The legislation becomes effective January 2018. The common definition of a sanctuary state or city, is an entity that limits cooperation with the federal government on immigration issues such as detention and deportation. Every sanctuary state or sanctuary city has their own rules for how they want to resist the federal government.
In California, the new law will prohibit local law enforcement agencies from asking people about their immigration status and prevent these agencies from sharing information with the federal government, unless the individual in question has been convicted of one or more offenses from a list of crimes outlined in the Trust Act – a 2013 law that severely limited ICE holds. Federal immigration officials will still be able to work with state correctional officers and enter county jails to question immigrants, but the law does block holds, such as ICE holds, on people in custody. The law also prevents law enforcement officials from detaining immigrants at schools and hospitals on behalf of federal immigration agents.
Although immigration consequences can be severe for many California state crimes, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can use many techniques and tools to either prevent or minimize immigration consequences. If you’re a non-citizen facing criminal charges, your very life in this country is on the line. The immigration laws are very complex and constantly changing. If you don’t hire the right criminal defense attorney, even a minor crime like pushing your girlfriend can lead to deportation.
If you are interviewing criminal defense attorneys, don’t be afraid to ask them about their experience involving immigration consequences. How often do they update themselves on immigration law? How often do they attend immigration seminars? Does their practice focus on immigration consequences for non-citizens? Does their website give an overview of immigration consequences for non-citizens?
Founding Attorney Fred Thiagarajah is an immigrant to this country, and son of immigrants. His parents brought him to the United States when he was three years old and he had the good fortune of being naturalized when his parents naturalized. Although he has grown up in California, he understands the immigrant culture and knows that most immigrants are good, hard-working individuals who cherish life in this country.
Choose a criminal defense attorney with the intelligence, knowledge and experience necessary to keep you safely in this country. Choose Right Choice Law. With offices in Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena, Diamond Bar, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside and Murrieta, our attorneys have criminal defense experience in the counties of Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside.