Anyone who faces criminal charges can experience a great deal of stress. However, an immigrant facing charges has even more at stake. Understanding the possible outcomes of your charges can help put your mind at ease. Here’s everything that you need to know about the consequences of a criminal charge for an immigrant.
How can immigrants handle criminal charges?
Immigrants can handle criminal charges like any other individual. However, they have a little more at stake. Usually, immigrants can benefit from hiring a lawyer who has experience working with immigrants. Only a lawyer with experience knows how to protect your status as an immigrant. There’s more at stake than just your freedom.
Like everyone else, immigrants have three ways of handling charges. First, they can plead not guilty. In doing so, they leave their fate in the hands of a judge or jury. With the help of a lawyer, they may be able to prove their innocence. However, the court could also find them guilty. There is no way to guarantee the outcome of a criminal trial.
A second option is to plead guilty to the crime. If you choose this option, you seal your fate. A judge decides on the sentencing for your crime. As an immigrant, pleading guilty to a criminal charge can result in severe consequences.
Finally, you could take a plea for a lesser crime. The punishment that you face depends on the severity of your crime. Therefore, admitting to a lesser crime could keep you from facing harsh penalties. However, it is important to note that immigrants can hurt their immigration status with even a misdemeanor. Even court supervision can be a cause for deportation. The only way to determine the best option for your case is to speak with a lawyer.
What is the outcome?
As an immigrant, any contact that you have with the police can impact your status as an immigrant. Your arrest could prevent you from getting a work visa, residence, or citizenship. When you get into legal trouble, you put your future in the country in jeopardy. You might need to say goodbye to any dreams of settling down in the US.
Illegal immigrants have even more to fear. Depending on the crime you commit, the police can work with immigration authorities to deport you. While there are protections for illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities and states, no place can protect you from deportation if you commit a major crime. There is a long list of crimes that can make you a candidate for deportation. If the court finds you guilty of your crime, you might find yourself back in your country of origin.
The Possible Consequences
Nothing can happen to you until a court finds you innocent or guilty of your crime. If the court finds you innocent, you don’t have anything to worry about. However, a guilty verdict comes with several possible consequences. For one, the government could reject your citizenship application or residence application. No matter how much of an asset you may be to this country, you won’t get citizenship with a criminal charge.
Another possible and likely consequence is deportation. During your case, you could find yourself in a detention center. While they can’t deport you until your case is over, the detention center is not a pleasant way to spend your time.
Finally, the US may prevent you from returning to the country for several years. In some situations, they could ban you outright from returning.
Are there any exceptions?
When US citizens commit crimes, there are many situations that warrant lesser sentences. However, immigrant law is much stricter. In most cases, a guilty verdict challenges your immigration status. Whether you commit a felony or misdemeanor, the consequences can be severe. And even if your sentence involves no jail time, you could face deportation. It also does not matter if you’ve been living in the US for an extended period, or if all of your family lives in the US.
One of the only exceptions comes in the form of juvenile offenses. When it comes to immigration, they do not count as convictions. That’s because juvenile convictions are sealed and not considered to be convictions. However, you do need to disclose juvenile offenses when you apply for immigration benefits.If you have juvenile offenses, you should keep copies of them for your records.
It’s important to note that being a minor isn’t enough to qualify your crime as a juvenile offense. People under 18 can face adult criminal charges, which can lead to deportation.
Another exception comes in the form of post-conviction relief. A lawyer can challenge your conviction. If he does so successfully, you may avoid deportation. It’s one of the only ways to stay in the country if a court finds you guilty of criminal charges. While there’s no guarantee of a successful outcome, it gives you a chance at redemption.