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Please Please Don’t Plead (Before You Talk to an Immigration Lawyer)

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Please Please Don’t Plead (Before You Talk to an Immigration Lawyer)

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Contributed by Aaron Hall, Senior Attorney

Our criminal justice system is set up to encourage the plea bargain process.  Those charged with crimes are often offered deals to lesser charges and promises that the prosecutor will recommend little or no jail time.  Facing the uncertainty of a trial and a possible conviction with harsher penalties, many people charged with crimes choose to take the plea offer.  Often, they take the plea offer very quickly because it seems to be the fastest way to get out of jail and get back to their families.

Unfortunately, this plea process often has disastrous consequences for noncitizens.  Criminal convictions can cause a noncitizen to be deportable, inadmissible, or ineligible for immigration benefits.

One of the problems is that many of the players in the criminal justice system are unaware that the definition of the word conviction is very different for purposes of immigration than it is for many states.  For example, in Colorado, the state courts will often sentence a defendant to a deferred judgment and sentence.  The conviction is then withdrawn if the defendant complies with the terms of the deferred judgment and sentence for a period of time.  After that, the conviction is no longer on the defendant’s record in the eyes of the state of Colorado.  Under the definition of the word “conviction” for immigration, however, the conviction will always stay on the defendant’s record, even if he fully complies with the deferred judgment and sentence.

There is no easy way to know whether a certain type of conviction will affect one’s immigration status or potential for future relief.  In some cases, seemingly small misdemeanors can lead directly to a person’s deportation.  Whether convictions will cause immigration consequences for noncitizens will depend on the elements of the crime, the person’s criminal history, the person’s immigration history, and sometimes the circumstances surrounding the crime.  For noncitizens that get charged with any crime, it is vitally important that you or your criminal defense attorney consult with an immigration attorney with expertise in the immigration consequences of criminal convictions.  Pleading guilty to what sounds like a good deal may seem easier and more convenient at the time, but it can end up being the mistake of a lifetime.

If you want to consult with an attorney at our office about the immigration consequences of criminal charges, call us at 303-297-9171 to set up a consultation.

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