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When criminal charges impact immigration status

One of the important goals of criminal defense, arguably the central goal, is the effort to minimize the consequences of criminal charges. Depending on the circumstances of the case, this could mean working to have charges dismissed or to have the defendant acquitted, or it could simply mean attempting to reduce the charges or the sentence upon conviction.

When an immigrant is hit with criminal charges, there may not only be the penalties of the offense itself they face, but also the possibility of a change in immigration status. When an immigrant becomes involved in the criminal process, therefore, they may need help not only with criminal defense, but also with minimizing the impact of criminal charges on the immigration process. 

The outcome of criminal cases against immigrants is not always easy to predict, partly because prosecutors sometimes use the threat of deportation as a basis for the charges they pursue in a criminal case. A drunk driving case involving a Tunisian man, for instance, resulted in a conviction of possessing drug paraphernalia, which ultimately resulted in deportation. His case was unique in that the paraphernalia that was the subject of the charges was a sock used to hold Adderall pills. That charge was initially determined to be sufficient for deportation, but the U.S. Supreme Court recently reversed the deportation on the grounds that the man’s crime was not sufficiently serious to warrant deportation.

In this case, strong advocacy was clearly a help to the immigrant in minimizing the consequences of his conviction. Regardless of the circumstances of a case, immigrants do themselves a favor when they work with experienced advocates in navigating both the criminal and the immigration process. 

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