If you have been arrested, charged or convicted of a crime, and you are not a U.S citizen, then you should be aware that a criminal conviction can make you deportable, prevent you from getting a green card, and even leave you with no defense if the Government seeks to have you deported. Even a seemingly minor brush with the law can have devastating implications for your ability to remain lawfully in the United States. When it comes to enforcing the immigration laws, the Government gives special priority to removal of recidivists and others whom the Government views as posing a threat to public safety or national security.
Generally speaking, a “conviction” for immigration purposes can be established when a Court has entered a formal judgment of guilt accompanied by imposition of punishment, penalty or a restraint on a person’s liberty. In the Ninth Circuit where I practice, a conviction does not have to be “final” to be considered a “conviction” for immigration purposes. That is, you can be deported even if you have not yet waived or exhausted all avenues for appealing the judgment of guilt. Even a deferred adjudication can qualify as a conviction. Other Courts of Appeals, most notably the Third Circuit, have expressed different views on whether a conviction needs to be final before immigration consequences will attach. So the law may be different depending on where you live.
Knowing whether a conviction can lead to immigration consequences -- and determining what those consequences are -- requires a proper understanding of immigration law, which can be highly nuanced and complex. A consultation with a qualified immigration attorney can help those with a criminal history understand their options for remaining in the United States, applying for immigration benefits, avoiding deportation, and identifying appropriate post-conviction remedies, where available.
Timothy D. Widman is a Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman, with offices in San Jose and Cupertino.