27 Nov 23

How Criminal Records Can Impact Immigration Status in New Jersey

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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:58 pm

How Criminal Records Can Impact Immigration Status in New Jersey

Immigrants living in New Jersey need to be aware of how criminal charges can affect their immigration status. Even minor offenses or arrests without convictions can trigger deportation proceedings in some cases. Understanding the complex interplay between criminal and immigration law is crucial.

This article provides an overview of key issues for immigrants tangled in New Jersey’s criminal justice system. We’ll cover immigration inquiries, potential consequences of convictions, and strategies to mitigate risks. My goal is to help non-citizens navigate this tricky territory as safely as possible.

Can Police Inquire About My Immigration Status?

Yes, law enforcement may ask about your immigration status upon arrest. However, prosecutors cannot question defendants regarding their status at trial. Doing so is considered improper and risks denying immigrants a fair legal process.

In State v. Cacho, New Jersey’s Supreme Court banned prosecutors from questioning defendants’ immigration status. So while police might inquire during booking, status should not come up again in criminal proceedings.

How Can Criminal Charges Impact My Immigration Case?

Even without a conviction, arrests or pending charges can negatively affect immigration cases in New Jersey. Specifically, being charged with “crimes involving moral turpitude” or “aggravated felonies” triggers deportation eligibility.

So what crimes fall into those categories? It’s complex, but essentially:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude are fundamentally “immoral” – things like fraud, theft, or sex crimes.
  • Aggravated felonies encompass serious offenses – murder, drug trafficking, major theft/fraud, etc.

However, classification also depends on potential sentence length. For instance, a theft conviction is not technically an aggravated felony unless punishment could exceed one year.

Additionally, domestic violence issues prompt removal eligibility regardless of specific offense. Best practice is consulting an immigration attorney immediately when facing any criminal charges as an immigrant. Doing so helps assess immigration risks given your unique situation.

What Factors Mitigate Immigration Consequences?

Fortunately, several factors may help mitigate immigration fallout from criminal issues:

  • Cultural Background
  • Defense lawyers can present cultural aspects that provide context for judges making sentencing decisions. Trauma, attitudes, or stresses tied to country of origin might persuade against jail time which prevents deportation eligibility.
  • Immigration-Safe Plea Deals
  • In negotiated pleas, lawyers craft deals avoiding aggravated felony or moral turpitude classifications. This prevents triggering automatic removal eligibility despite a conviction.
  • Quickly Resolved Cases
  • The longer charges stay pending, the greater negative impact on immigration status. So resolving matters efficiently limits damage.
  • No Contest Pleas
  • “No contest” pleas mean not technically pleading guilty while accepting convictions. This middle-ground helps avoid admission of guilt that could influence immigration cases.
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Should I Hire an Immigration Lawyer Too?

Absolutely! Consulting an immigration attorney should happen immediately when facing criminal charges as a non-citizen. Here’s why it’s crucial:

  • They assess specific risks to your status and eligibility for waivers.
  • Immigration lawyers craft complementary strategy alongside criminal defense counsel.
  • Starting this process early maximizes chances of protecting status even with convictions.
  • It prevents criminal counsel missing important immigration impacts.

Bottom line – immigrants in criminal court absolutely need immigration expertise on their side ASAP. The complex interrelation of these legal areas has many nuances easy for one lawyer to miss. So hiring a specialist helps cover all bases.

Navigating New Jersey’s criminal system is challenging enough for citizens, let alone non-citizens with added immigration worries. Understanding the key issues covered here helps immigrants facing charges make safer decisions. Consulting both criminal and immigration counsel quickly allows crafting an optimal defense strategy limiting risks to the fullest extent