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Immigrant facing criminal charges? Do this first.

You’re driving home late at night after a long day at work. Suddenly, you look up and see the lights of a police car flashing in your rear-view mirror. The officer pulls you over and asks whether you’ve been drinking. You haven’t; you’re simply exhausted. The officer, however, doesn’t believe you—and arrests you on the spot.

Under the best of circumstances, getting arrested for a crime you didn’t commit would be extremely frustrating. You might end up spending the night in jail until you can contact a lawyer and clear up the misunderstanding. As an immigrant in the same situation, however, an incident like this can compromise their entire future. As a non-citizen, facing a criminal charge—even one that doesn’t result in conviction—could result in deportation.

Protecting your immigration status

Most people facing criminal charges would usually hire a criminal defense attorney. However, if you’re a non-citizen—including a permanent resident with a green card—it’s important that you also hire an immigration attorney to help with your case.

Why? Because immigration law and criminal law are two very different specializations. A criminal defense attorney’s main area of expertise is how to get you to avoid jail—or even a trial. However, such an attorney has little understanding of how criminal charges could affect your ability to stay in the U.S. This attorney could advise you to accept certain offers or admit to certain faults that may get you off the hook for criminal penalties—but may still jeopardize your status and lead to a removal order in Immigration Court.

Having an immigration attorney on your team is critical to understanding your rights and how to avoid deportation. They can advise you on:

  • How to communicate with immigration authorities, if necessary
  • The impact of no-contest or guilty pleas on your immigration status
  • Avoiding anything that constitutes a conviction from an immigration standpoint
  • Avoiding actions that automatically trigger deportation or inadmissibility to the U.S.
  • Immigration holds—what they mean, and how they could impact you
  • Plea bargains that can protect—or jeopardize—your immigration status

As a non-citizen in the U.S., you have a lot on the line when facing criminal charges. That’s why it’s essential to have a robust legal team on your side. Hiring an immigration attorney to work together with your criminal defense attorney is essential.

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