Question: I have have committed a crime, but do not know if I should plead guilty or not and if I do plead guilty, I do not know what I should plead to. Should I hire an Immigration Lawyer? Should I hire a Criminal Lawyer? Should I hire Criminal and Immigration Lawyers?
Answer: These are very valid questions. In fact, it is critical that you obtain the necessary information from criminal and immigration lawyers working together. Because you are not a U.S. Citizen, every single crime could potentially affect your ability to legally remain in the United States. Only if the criminal and immigration lawyers work together can you obtain the correct advice. An Immigration Lawyer is not an expert in Criminal Law and a Criminal Lawyer is not an expert in Immigration Law. Neither the Criminal Attorney or the Criminal Judge are aware of how your particular criminal situation will affect your immigration status. There is no reason to plea to something in criminal court that will only hurt your chances of remaining in the United States.
Question: How will the Criminal and Immigration Attorneys work together? What will they do to help me?
Answer: Generally, the Immigration Attorney can prepare the necessary criminal evaluation which will document to you and the criminal attorney exactly what is your immigration situation and the best alternatives for a plea that will have the least effect on your immigration status and will minimize the damage that could occur in future deportation hearings. Even if you get put into deportation or removal proceedings, the criminal and immigration lawyers working together will minimize the harm in deportation proceedings. It will have the effect of possibly making you eligible for certain forms of relief such as Cancellation of Removal for Lawful Permanent Residents or Adjustment of Status with a Waiver of Inadmissibility. Sometimes a guilty plea in criminal court will not sound so bad, but could make you an aggravated felon in Immigration Court. As an aggravated felon, you would not be eligible for most forms of relief. Thus, if the criminal and immigration lawyers work together in the beginning before you plea to anything, then everyone can benefit. You will minimize the harm done on your immigration status; the prosecutor will still get a conviction; the Criminal Judge will still be administering justice; the criminal attorney gets a plea and the immigration attorney protects you against unintended consequences. Thus, while it might be more expensive, the best route for you is to hire Criminal and Immigration Lawyers to work in tandem to help you through this process.
Question: What happens if I just plea guilty now as I am being told by my Criminal Lawyer that it is the best thing to do?
Answer: That would be a very large mistake. Basically, the Criminal Attorney is probably telling you that you will get less time and that it is the best deal that you can get. However, what does it matter if you get less time if you are simply transferred to immigration detention, placed in deportation proceedings and deported for many years or even the rest of your life? It is critical that you get the help of Criminal and Immigration Lawyers working together before you plea, not after. It is possible to try to set aside the plea afterwards. However, it is considerably more difficult.