Immigration Consequences Can Happen Even for Minor New York Offenses
As a New York City Criminal Defense Attorney, I'm often asked if a minor offense can lead to short-term immigration consequences like problems getting back into the US or damage long term plans like becoming a citizen. Now, more than ever, the answer is yes. After Trump's inauguration and executive order, we have heard of situations where students on a F visa have run into severe problems following a first arrest for shoplifting or marijuana / drug possession. Even if you have legal status in the US (such as a visa) you may be unable to return to the US or have other severe problems following an arrest or desk appearance ticket. Unfortunately, a lot of lawyers have traditionally said that you won't have any problems if the case gets dismissed or if it was for a relatively minor offense such as a marijuana ticket. This is not the case. In reality, it never was. If you aren't a US Citizen, you don't generally have an absolute right to enter or stay in the United States. Criminality can be overlooked to different degrees based on federal policy. This policy has become very harsh and unforgiving.
The following factors will be relevant
- Whether you were arrested or detained by the police
- Whether you were charged with anything and given a court date
- Whether you went to court
- The outcome of your case in criminal court
- How were you punished (was there jail, probation, community service, a drug program, an anti-shoplifting class, etc)
- Whether your criminal case is fully resolved or if it is still open and pending
- What you or your lawyer said in criminal court
- Whether you are here on a visa, green-card, or some other basis
- Whether you have a good explanation of what happened
The New York Times recently reported in a 2017 article that the definition of “criminal” has been expanded in the context of who is being targeted for deportation, removal, or exclusion from the US. Trump’s recent immigration order focuses on anyone who has been CHARGED with a criminal offense even if it has not led to a conviction. This means you can have problems even if you got an ACD or otherwise avoided being convicted of the most serious offense. Trump also includes anyone who has “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.” This means that even if you were not charged with a crime, but authorities or an independent investigation reveal that you could have been charged with a crime, you may be called a criminal. Crime has been expanded to include: anyone who has engaged in or been charged with a criminal offense or who abused any public benefit.
Common NYC misdemeanor situations that could cause problems for non-citizens
- Cocaine, MDMA, or other drug possession
- DWI / DUI
- Entering the subway without paying
- Not paying a taxi (theft of services)
- Any misdemeanor or felony charge
- Receiving a desk appearance ticket or pink colored criminal court summons
If you've been arrested for any criminal offense, you should proceed carefully. Getting proper legal representation for your criminal case is your best strategy. Consulting with an immigration lawyer is also advisable.