How Criminal Charges Can Impact Immigration Status

You had a run-in with law enforcement. Call it an unfortunate mistake, temporary lack of judgment, or total misunderstanding – but it happened. Whether you are a lawful permanent resident of the United States or you have been granted temporary residence through a green card, a police record can create significant complications for immigrants – even if the case/charges are dismissed.  

Although Stechschulte Nell is a criminal and DUI defense law firm, being in Florida puts a unique perspective on the impact criminal charges can have on your ability to live in the United States. See how an arrest can impact your immigration status. 

Consequences of an arrest for immigrants can include: 

  • Deportation or removal proceedings
  • Inability to obtain legal residence in the U.S. 
  • Affect your ability to bring family into the country 
  • Make you ineligible to renew your green card 
  • Reduce your chances of obtaining a work visa 

Types of Criminal Cases that Impact Immigration

While nearly all grounds of removal require a criminal conviction, not all do. These include:  

  • Being initially charged with sale of marijuana or another controlled substance;  
  • Having a history of dismissed marijuana or controlled substance charges; or 
  • The case involves an alleged violation of an order of protection, such as a domestic restraining order.  

The government trigger grounds of removal by claiming a “reason to believe” an individual is a drug trafficker, a “drug abuser or addict” under the law, or there is a determination by the Florida courts that they violated an order of protection. If your dismissed case(s) involves one –or more- of these grounds, you may be at legal risk.

Possible Defense Strategies for Immigrants

In our experience, the exception is for individuals who initially plead guilty, but the court vacated the plea due to rehabilitation. Our criminal attorney has had success with getting the courts to recognize rehabilitation as part of sentencing. This may result in the reducing, dismissing, or expunging of a conviction after a person completes a rehab program or after a specific amount of time passes.  

Another possible defense is showing otherwise “good moral character.” Factors including a steady job and/or home life, volunteering, or community involvement may all have a positive impact on your criminal charges. These same arguments can be applied to help maintain your immigration status. Generally, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will look at an immigrant’s good moral character within 5 years of an application being submitted. 

At our criminal defense firm, we work with clients to protect their futures. Don’t wait to see how your charges may impact your immigration status. If you’re worried about criminal grounds of removability, call our Tampa, FL lawyer for a free consultation. 

Why am I still at deportation risk if the arrest has been dismissed?

Usually, a dismissed criminal case will not automatically trigger grounds of removability from the United States. However, the arrest (or conviction) will be a matter of public record. All arrests, even misdemeanors, in the United States are entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) – a federal database containing criminal records. Even if the charges have been dismissed, it will still appear in the NCIC computer. With everchanging immigration laws, these records may put individuals at future deportation risk. 

When applying for or maintaining your immigration status, you are required by law to advise immigration officers, employees of Homeland Security, and employees of the State Department about the arrest when asked. By not admitting to an arrest, it could result in a conviction for “fraud to gain an immigration benefit”.

What do I need to submit regarding a dismissed case(s)?

If contacted by a government agency, we recommend that you seek the counsel of another Florida board-certified attorney who is experienced with immigration cases.  

You or your immigration attorney should provide a court disposition or a letter that the prosecutor declined to prosecute. These documents are the best evidence of the outcome of your arrest. Police reports and other court documents are unproven allegations (you are presumed innocent until proven guilty), and do not address the outcome of the court proceedings or show that your case was dismissed. 

If asked for an interview or court examination, you are legally required to disclose all arrests and may be questioned about them. It’s best to be prepared to fully answer for your criminal history. Be truthful about your arrest, even if it was dismissed.

If Arrested, Call Stechschulte Nell Law

If you’ve been arrested for a crime, don’t put your immigration status at risk. We’ll work to get the most favorable outcome for your case. There are several ways an experienced criminal defense attorney can help immigrants. Contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to ensure you are taking the appropriate steps. Our experienced Tampa area criminal defense can help. Call Stechschulte Nell Law today at (813) 280-1244 for a free case review. 

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