Today I appeared in Federal Immigration Court for a cancellation of removal hearing. This is not the type of case that I would usually handle. The majority of my practice consist of criminal and traffic defense. However, an experienced criminal defense lawyer realizes that when dealing with a defendant who is not a citizen, it is imperative that you take into account the immigration consequences of the criminal offense as charged and the possible plea offers. In some cases, I will represent individuals in immigration proceedings. More importantly, because of my experience in the immigration courts, I have a true understanding of how criminal convictions will affect my clients’ immigration status. I also work closely with experienced immigration lawyers while representing clients facing immigration consequences in connection with a criminal charge.
One of these offense is shoplifting, which is considered a crime of moral turpitude. In some cases, even a single shoplifting offense will expose the non-citizen to removal proceedings. Under some circumstances, those in removal proceedings may be eligible for certain forms of relief, including cancellation of removal. This usually depends on a variety of factors, including the defendant’s present immigration status, time in the country, number and type of prior offenses, etc.
In some cases, even those convicted of multiple shoplifting offenses may avoid removal. The client I represented today had five prior convictions for shoplifting. Given his immigration status and the nature of the offenses (disorderly persons) he was able to apply for cancellation based on hardship. After hearing testimony, the immigration judge ruled in our favor and he was released from immigration custody.
If you are not a citizen, and have been charged criminally, you should ask the lawyers you interview for possible representation if they understand how your immigration status will be affected by the charges you face. For most non-citizen, removal from the country is by the far the most severe penalty that could be levied against them. Those attorneys defending non-citizens should be cognizant of this fact and take the proper steps to protect their rights.