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There is a rather new legal “specialty” called crimmigration, where a person’s plea in even a municipal court “no biggie” case might get you deported. It has gotten so serious that the United States has directed attorneys to inform their foreign national clients of the immigration consequences when entering a guilty plea to criminal charges, regardless of how minor they might appear.

Curbelo Law is fortunate to have a lawyer qualified in both areas of criminal and immigration law: Carolina Curbelo, ESQ.

Let’s take a look at a few such cases that would require the expertise of them both:

Scenario 1

You are a non-citizen from an Eastern European country and you have already pled guilty to distribution of a controlled dangerous substance. You received a probationary sentence and consider yourself pretty lucky to be returned to your life. But ten years later ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) picks you up and informs you they will deport you due to your conviction. But wait! Your criminal defense attorney never told you this might happen. He never even asked you whether you were a citizen or not. This situation would require CURBELO LAW attorneys to file an ineffective assistance of counsel claim of client’s trial attorney, who never explained the ramifications of the guilty plea on your deportation status. You would most probably have your conviction overturned.

Scenario 2

You are a non-citizen from South America, and you overstayed your VISA after coming through a US port of entry. Ten years ago you pled guilty to shoplifting and theft at Target which was a DP, or Disorderly Persons offense. You served no jail time but once again, ICE detains you and holds you in the ICE jail facility prior to deportation. But your criminal defense attorney failed to advise you might be a Petty Disorderly Persons exception on a one time basis, which would require that ICE let you go.

Scenario 3

Your defense attorney arranges a plea bargain of a flat five-year imprisonment, and the judge imposes 365 days in prison instead. Your attorney knows of your illegal immigration status yet advises you to take the judge’s recommendation, without explaining how this impacts your immigration situation. But you have now pled guilty to an aggravated felony, and will be placed in deportation status. Had your defense attorney negotiated a sentence of 364 days of incarceration, then there is no aggravated felony on your record.

Scenario 4

You are a legal permanent resident but you cannot qualify to become a citizen because years ago you pled guilty to a municipal charge of possessing drug paraphernalia. At the time, you could not afford an attorney to advise you of the consequences of your actions. But upon retaining a crimmigration attorney to review your record, the court vacated the conviction since at the municipal trial you were not represented by an attorney who could have advised you of the immigration consequences.

This is but a tiny selection of scenarios that non-citizens might encounter in the years prior to obtaining full citizenship or being deported. Hefty law manuals are written to cover the multitude of situations people encounter, and with this strictness with which ICE interprets the law, you must ask for both competent immigration and criminal legal advice before venturing into court to accept a plea.

Please call Curbelo Law now for a consultation regarding a pending or prior criminal matter that may have detrimental immigration consequences.