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Immigrant Charged With a Crime

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What should I do if I get charged with a crime? Hi, I'm Jim Hacking immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. We have been seeing immigrants get in more and more trouble with crimes, big and small. And we wanted to make this video to talk about what you need to think about if you are an immigrant in the United States that is a non-US citizen and you are facing criminal charges. Now, a lot of times people wait until the last minute to consult an immigration lawyer. I've had numerous occasions where a criminal defense attorney has called me, literally, on their way to the courthouse or inside the courthouse, and they go, "Hey, Jim, I've got this guy," and it's always a guy, "I've got this guy from Algeria and he's facing a charge for domestic assault," or, "for embezzlement. And what do you think? Should I plead him out?" And when I was a newer attorney, I would actually take those calls. Now, I don't even take those calls. People need to work with their immigration lawyer right out of the box.

So, if you are an immigrant, and if you are charged with a crime, you need to call your immigration lawyer right away because there is no part of immigration law that is more complicated than the intersection of criminal and immigration law. In other words, they call it crimmigration. And in crimmigration, you're dealing with the immigration consequences of a criminal charge or criminal plea. And it is very, very, very complicated to figure out whether or not a particular crime is going to make someone deportable or inadmissible. So we see this time and time again, immigrants get charged with a crime, they call and hire a criminal defense lawyer, and then what happens next all depends on whether or not the criminal defense lawyer knows what they're doing or not.

Now, the best criminal defense lawyers will tell the immigrant, "Hey, we need to get Jim or some other immigration lawyer on board right away so that as we're negotiating with the prosecutor about what to do with your charge, that we go ahead and include the immigration lawyer." Because the fact of the matter is, there are crimes that US citizens can plead guilty to that will just result in a suspension or some kind of suspended sentence or some kind of slap on the wrist. But that carries severe immigration consequences, including deportation for an immigrant. So, you can't assume that you're like everybody else. And this is true, whether you've been here for six months or 16 years. It doesn't even depend on your status as a lawful permanent resident.

You might think that you have protections and there are some protections available for green card holders that aren't available for other immigrants, but until you're a US citizen, your crimes can come back to haunt you. And sometimes, as the courts have often said, the immigration consequences of a guilty plea are the most severe, that you might get probation, but that might still be a conviction for purposes of immigration. So, all this came about today because one of our interns, Layla, is getting ready to take her immigration exam. And she was asking me to talk to her about the difference between the categorical approach and the modified categorical approach. This is the very complex method by which courts use to figure out if a crime has resulted in someone having to be in deportation proceedings. So, the categorical approach applies if the state statute or federal statute on which you're convicted matches the definition that immigration uses.

And if it doesn't, if there's activity that falls outside the scope of that, then you use something called the modified categorical approach, which then allows the immigration judge and the prosecutor to look at the underlying details of your particular case versus just comparing statute to statute. So, even as I'm talking it through with you, I'm remembering how complex it is. And we start over scratch every single time we come across a criminal case for an immigrant. What do I mean by that? Well, we have 50 States with many municipalities and different jurisdictions and different laws and statutes and regulations, plus we have the federal system. So there are a ton and ton of laws that may fall into different categories like domestic violence or money fraud, or crimes of violence, or gun charges, or drug charges. And depending on the exact way the statute is written, that can really impact what happens.

So, long and the shorter of it is, if you are an immigrant and you're charged with a crime, you need to bring an immigration lawyer into the mix early so that they can work with the prosecutor, work with a criminal defense lawyer to try to get you a guilty plea that doesn't result in you going to removal court. Or doesn't set you up to go into removal if you travel and come back to the United States. So, if you have questions about this or about crimes, give us a call 314-961-8200. You can email us at [email protected]. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home. If you liked this video, we ask you to please share it out on social and subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you get updates whenever we make videos just like this one. And don't forget, we've been going live every Tuesday and Thursday from noon to one Central Time interacting with people who have questions and trying to answer their immigration questions.

So if you have a question that we haven't covered in one of our hundreds and hundreds of YouTube videos, join us there. You can join us in our Facebook group, Immigrant Home, or on our YouTube channel. And you'll get alerted when we go live. So thanks a lot. Have a great day.

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