Why Foreign Nationals Should Contact an Immigration Lawyer When Arrested

Criminal convictions can have particularly harsh consequences for non-citizens. Not only does a foreign national face the same criminal penalties as US citizens, but the conviction also has an impact on the person’s immigration status. To make matters worse, many convictions which are viewed as minor under state criminal laws, such as possession of a pipe or drug paraphernalia (without actual possession of any drugs), have very severe consequences and only one such conviction can form a ground of deportation. Therefore, it is very important to understand the charges that are brought against a foreign national and how those charges can affect the immigration status now or in the future. A person’s defense counsel should always be informed that a person is a non-citizen and if the attorney is not trained in immigration law, it is always recommended that an immigration attorney is consulted. Frequently, it is possible to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor where the new charges do not carry harsh immigration consequences. But because few prosecutors are experts in immigration law, it is also helpful to provide the appropriate statutes and case law to the prosecutor to help her or him understand the additional punitive consequences that a non-citizen suffers by being convicted. By providing these additional resources to a prosecutor who often has a tremendous case load and very little time to do her or his own research, we can help the prosecutor in looking at all angles of the case and often we can arrive at a compromise solution that works best for the foreign national. In exchange for a different charge that carries no Immigration consequences, we can suggest a longer sentence or maybe even a weekend in jail. The tougher sentence will please the prosecutor while the foreign national is spared from the additional and frequently much harsher punishment from the immigration system. The bottom line, then, is to always seek advice from an immigration lawyer when faced with criminal changes against a foreign national and to do it as soon as possible.

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