Preventing negative immigration consequences of criminal convictions represents one of the most challenging aspects of being a skilled and dedicated criminal defense attorney. Too many criminal defense lawyers do not live up to their obligation and duty to thoroughly investigate and zealously pursue legal solutions aimed at avoiding adverse immigration consequences, by either ignoring or underestimating the fact that special expertise and diligence is required. This is most unfortunate and often too tragic as immigration problems often represent the most severe penalties that a person accused or convicted of an even relatively minor crime can face. Situations involving people who have spent almost their entire lives in the United States - with spouses, children, extended families, friends and jobs here - facing imminent deportation without a possibility of a legal return, are devastating and not particularly uncommon.
Unfortunately, during the last 15 years, the immigration consequences of criminal convictions have become more severe often leading to devastating, unjust and sometimes even absurd results. The future promises to be even more draconian as demonstrated by recent legislative initiatives such as the House Bill HR 4437 (Sensenbrenner Bill). Fortunately, anyone coming to our firm with an immigration/criminal problem comes to the right place. We have developed an expertise and genuine dedication to helping our clients with these kinds of problems. In addition to avoiding negative immigration consequences of criminal convictions in active ongoing cases, we can often find post-conviction relief and solutions to cases long decided and closed.
A common situation involving a non-citizen convicted of a criminal offense - that results in some adverse immigration consequence unknown at the time of plea or trial - can occur in several ways. An immigrant criminal defendant might have entered a guilty or no-contest plea while representing him- or herself without counsel to provide advice regarding immigration consequences of the plea. Also, whether represented or not at the time of the guilty plea, a non-citizen defendant might not actually understand immigration consequences despite being warned by the judge or being presented with the fine print on the plea form. It is not unusual for immigrants, especially those with lawful permanent resident status and deep family roots in the United States, to wrongly assume that they are protected and safe because such warnings or fine print are meant for those who are here illegally or have committed most serious of crimes. It also happens all too often that legal counsel has either provided erroneous advice regarding immigration issues or has failed to investigate the immigration consequences properly or provide any advice at all. Lastly, the adverse immigration consequences often did not exist, or were not as serious, when the plea was entered. Certain immigration laws imposing significantly harsher immigration consequences retroactively came into effect in 1996.
Fortunately, a surprising number of legal options still exist provided they are explored and evaluated by counsel with the right knowledge and skill. These options include direct appeals, writs of habeas corpus, petitions for writs of error coram nobis, non-statutory motions to vacate on constitutional grounds or statutory motions to vacate judgement pursuant to California Penal Code § 1016.5.
If you or the member of your family or friend is facing an immigration problem as a result of a criminal conviction, please do not hesitate to call us for a no-obligation no-cost evaluation of your situation. We can successfully intervene in these types of problems in the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura or San Diego counties and throughout California.