of Difficult Cases
Immigration Consequences of Sex Offense Convictions
Immigration Is Always a Critical Consideration
We regularly represent clients who are concerned about the impact of a charge or a conviction for a sex offense on their immigration status. Increasingly, we represent individuals who are in the United State on H-1B Visas, H-2A visas, and student visas, as well as those who are here with legal status and a green card, and those who are not. Every individual’s immigration status is unique and must be analyzed with a clear understanding of the law. There is no question that any criminal conviction can pose a problem for those seeking citizenship or permanent resident status, but the impact of a sex offense conviction can be even more devastating to that effort. If a person does not have documented status the impact can be even more serious.
Our approach in cases where our clients face potential immigration consequences is to be sure that we get them the best possible advice and advocacy in that process. Immigration law is highly technical, and we are experts in criminal law, not experts in immigration law. But we are trained by those experts, and we have been working with immigration attorney and advocates for immigrants for decades to ensure we get our clients the best possible results. We regularly attend trainings on immigration issues and remain up to date on the issues. We are sensitive to these issues and plan our defense with these concerns as a priority. Ultimately, we take steps to ensure our clients fully understand the immigration issues from an expert. At the Meryhew Law Group we have long established working relationship with excellent immigration attorney who focus their practice on the impact of criminal convictions on immigration status. With their advice our clients are able to resolve their cases with confidence about the consequences for their future.
Our Duty to Advise Our Clients of This Important Consequence
Recent U.S. Supreme Court cases have made it a duty for defense attorney’s and the Prosecutor and the Judge to make sure that defendants have been advised of the immigration consequences of their convictions before they enter a plea of guilty to any charge. At the time of the entry of a change of plea the Judge must inquire of the defense attorney to be sure that the defendant has been advised of this potential consequence. Even so, the Judge can never ask what a person’s actual immigration status is. In Washington, the court rules and the policies of many counties make it inappropriate to ask a person directly about their immigration status in court, and should not do so. Likewise, many counties and jails have a policy of not sharing data with Federal authorities about the immigration status of the individuals who are convicted or in jail for criminal offenses. But in other places this information is shared and being in jail can put a person at significant risk for the start of immigration proceedings against them.
What Is a Conviction for Immigration Purposes
The immigration statute contains its own definition of when a conviction has occurred in state criminal court – regardless of what state law says. For immigration purposes, a conviction occurs:
–Where there is “a formal judgment of guilt of the alien entered by a court” or,
– “if adjudication of guilt has been withheld, where … a judge or jury has found the alien guilty, or the alien has entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or has admitted sufficient facts to warrant a finding of guilt, and …the judge has ordered some form of punishment, penalty, or restraint on the alien’s liberty to be imposed.
A guilty plea or any finding of guilt, along with any imposition of probation, fine, or jail will equal a conviction for immigration purposes. This means that if the person pled guilty, it is very likely that she has a conviction for immigration purposes. This means that a Deferred Sentence, or a Stipulated Order of Continuance, for example, can still be considered a conviction for immigration purposes.
Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence Victims and Immigration
U Visas and Criminal Law
People who have been victims of human trafficking, domestic violence or sexual violence are sometimes charged with crimes that arose as a direct result of their victimization. If that victim is not a citizen, this charge and conviction can lead to their being deported. More importantly, those charges can lead to disqualifying a victim from eligibility under the U Visa program for survivors of trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual violence.
The U visa is available to these victims, and provides temporary lawful immigration status, employment authorization to allow them to work and support themselves, and protection from deportation. The U visa also allows a person to obtain a green card and also gives them the ability to help family members obtain lawful immigration status. Successful U visa applicants may be eligible to apply for state public benefits programs. Importantly they are also no longer prevented from renewing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) once they receive deferred action through the U visa process. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime after being the victim of human trafficking, domestic violence, or sexual violence we can help them navigate this difficult process, while telling their story to the authorities and negotiating on their behalf.
A Track Record of Success
Knowing the potential immigration consequences, and understanding how to advocate and negotiate for clients in this situation, has enabled us to achieve very good results for our immigrant clients. We have had many successes with clients who have been able to stay in the United States and pursue naturalization and permanent status despite being charged with a sex offense. In one recent case our client faced a Class C sex offense that would certainly have led to the loss of his “green card” or permanent alien status, and would likely lead to him and his family being told to leave the United States. But through our advocacy, and with excellent advice from a local immigration attorney, we were able to persuade the Prosecutor in that case to reduce that charge to a misdemeanor that was not a sex offense, significantly improving his chances of remaining in the United States.
Every case is different, and every client’s situation must be analyzed based on the facts of that person’s entry into the United States. It is critical that the attorney representing you understands the importance and the complication of these issues. It is also critical that the accused receives accurate information and strong advocacy, as there is so much on the line. We are trained and we are committed to making sure you get accurate and reliable advice regarding this critical issue. At the Meryhew Law Group we are committed to giving you the best possible advice and advocacy as you navigate this complicated and scary process.
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