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Be Up Front About Crimes

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There's a big difference between admitting a crime before you're asked or after you're asked.

Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. Got in a little feisty debate with one of my consults the other day about whether or not he had properly disclosed a crime.

Now, this fellow had a domestic violence charge and he had gotten it expunged, which means in the state in which he lives, and I don't remember which state it was, it might've been Florida, he had been arrested for domestic violence against his spouse and he had pled guilty, gotten probation, and then later on he went and got the arrest and the conviction expunged after he completed his probation.

He thought he was very clever, and so when the time came for him to apply for citizenship and there were questions on there about whether he'd ever been arrested or been to court, he put no on each of those, that he'd never been arrested and that he'd never been in front of a judge.

Now, both of those statements were, as it turns out, incorrect. Now, whether they're false or not, I mean they're patently false, but whether he intended for them to be false, he fought with me on that.

But that's not the point of this video. The point of this video, what I want to mention is that he thought he was in the clear because it had gotten expunged. An expungement is a state court vehicle that allows you to try to get your conviction off your record, and of course that might work for you as citizens, but immigration is federal and immigration doesn't care what the State of Florida or the State of Missouri or any other state does with your conviction. It's still an arrest and it's still a conviction.

And so we've made many videos about this, that you want to be upfront and honest about every citation you've received, every denial, every interaction you've had with law enforcement. Any time you've been in front of a judge, you have to be honest and upfront about all those.

Now, he said to me, "Well, Jim, I did mark no on those things."

And I said, "Well, when the officer asked you out loud, how did you answer? Have you ever been arrested, cited, detained, charged, or brought before judge? Any of those questions."

He said, "I answered no."

And I said, "Are you kidding me? You said no." I said, "Clearly you've been arrested. Why would you say no?"

"Well, I got it expunged, and oh, by the way, Jim, I told her after she asked me again."

So the officer let him lie in his answers to the question and he even was given a second chance. That's how you can tell, because if the officer says, "Have you ever been arrested, cited or detained?" And you say no and they say, "Are you sure?"

Are you sure? Is a great tip, and not every officer is going to give you that freedom to answer a second time.

They might just say you're lying, but they might give you a second chance, and so your ears should peak up and you should look around and say, "Oh, she asked me, am I sure?"

Well, if I'm sure, that means she probably has something in front of her. If she's looking at her computer screen or she's looking at some paper in front of her, that probably means she has the records. That of course is the whole reason of the fingerprint checks and the background checks that they do after you apply for an immigration benefit.

So don't be too clever, don't be too smart, and don't think that that just because you admitted after you get caught that that's the same thing as admitting it ahead of time.

This guy is going to get denied. They're going to say that he lied to them on multiple occasions. He lied on the form that he signed under penalty of perjury that he had never been arrested.

He lied on the form when he testified under penalty of perjury that he had never been arrested or in front of a judge. So this guy's got real problems, and of course it's going to make it harder for him ever to get citizenship because the next time they're going to ask him, "Have you ever lied to a government official?" So it's a big old mess.

As always, my friends, my dear friends, criminal law and immigration, where those two things intersect, that's the most confusing and difficult part of immigration law.

So you really need to think through what you're doing and make sure that you are answering the questions properly. Please don't make mistakes like this guy. Please don't mislead an immigration officer, and most importantly, if it feels like you're trying to get away with something, you probably need to talk to a lawyer, because you're not that clever, you're not that cute, and most importantly, someone else tried it before and they know all of your tricks. Maybe I should make a video about that. They know all your tricks.

All right, if you have questions about this or if you have a criminal issue in your past and you're thinking about applying for an immigration benefit, like a Green Card or for citizenship, give us a call. 314-961-8200. You can email us at [email protected]. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group so that you get updates whenever we make videos just like this one. That group is called Immigrant Home, and you've got us on our YouTube channel. Make sure you subscribe. Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

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