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Riverside Criminal Immigration Lawyer

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For most immigrants to the U.S., securing permanent residency with a green card is their ultimate objective. This document provides a variety of rights and protections that are not accessible through a visa or work permit and allows immigrants to remain in the U.S. indefinitely to build a new life for themselves and their families. However, moving to another country poses a number of significant challenges, from clashing cultures and language barriers to difficulty understanding how to find employment, file taxes, or handle other important issues.

Like anyone else, an immigrant can easily make a mistake that violates the law, yet the penalties they suffer far outweigh those that would be imposed on a natural born citizen. In some cases, they do not even have to be convicted of a crime to suffer immigration consequences.

Immigration law is notoriously complicated, and defending an immigrant requires an in-depth understanding of this field of law that a traditional criminal defense attorney does not possess. If you are an immigrant charged with a crime, retaining a Riverside criminal immigration lawyer can mean the difference between securing immigration benefits or halting the process entirely. Review the information below to learn more about how criminal charges can impact you, then contact U.S. Law Center to schedule a free consultation with our attorneys.

Riverside Criminal Immigration Lawyer


How Can Criminal Charges Impact Immigrants?

Green cards, visas, work permits, and other legal forms of immigration are essentially contracts between an immigrant and the government of the country they migrate to. Regardless of whether an individual is illegally present in the country or has obtained lawful permanent residency or citizenship, committing certain crimes outlined in the Immigrant and Nationality Act (INA) is considered a violation of this contract. This gives the Immigration court the legal authority to revoke their status, prevent them from continuing along the path to citizenship, or deport them from the U.S. The INA differentiates between “deportable” crimes and “inadmissible” crimes.

A conviction for a deportable crime can result in deportation, while a conviction for an inadmissible crime makes an individual ineligible to receive immigration benefits, meaning:

  • Undocumented immigrants cannot apply for permanent residency or adjustment of status.
  • Legal immigrants cannot obtain citizenship (naturalization).
  • Legal immigrants cannot reenter the country if they leave.

Additionally, entering the country or obtaining immigration benefits after being deemed “inadmissible” can result in deportation.

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What Are Deportable Crimes?

According to the INA, convictions for the following types of offenses are deportable crimes:

  1. Crimes of moral turpitude. A “crime of moral turpitude” (CMT) is a broad term encompassing a range of criminal offenses that could be considered inherently evil, despicable, morally depraved, or severe enough to harm the defendant’s reputation. CMTs generally refer to crimes that involve fraud, dishonesty, or other types of unjust behavior that can harm others. However, judges have discretion when interpreting a crime as a CMT and use statutes from state laws to review each crime and determine whether a conviction under those specific statutes fits this definition.Crimes of moral turpitude include:
    • Violent crimes, including assault and battery, murder, and manslaughter
    • Theft crimes that cause great bodily injuries to victims
    • Weapons crimes, including the sale or trafficking of illegal firearms
    • Serious drug offenses, such as manufacturing, distributing, or trafficking drugs
    • Kidnapping and human trafficking
    • Sex crimes, including sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse of minors
    • Financial crimes such as fraud, forgery, or extortion
    • Conspiracy to commit a CMT
    • Aiding and abetting a crime that is considered a CMT

    Being convicted of one CMT does not make a defendant deportable. Instead, they must meet at least one of these conditions:

    • Within five years of admission into the U.S., they are convicted of a CMT that could carry a prison sentence of one year or more, or
    • They are convicted of two or more CMTs arising from more than one criminal scheme, regardless of how long after admission these crimes occurred.

    Because deportation is a serious consequence not to be imposed lightly, immigration law does feature a petty offense exception for minor crimes such as shoplifting. A defendant can avoid their crime being classified as a CMT if the penalty for the offense does not exceed one year in prison and they served less than six months of their sentence. Still, in some cases, it can be difficult to predict whether a judge will deem a crime a CMT, particularly for DUI convictions in California. A Riverside criminal immigration lawyer can explain the potential consequences of a conviction in their client’s situation.

  2. Aggravated felonies. Aggravated felonies for the purposes of immigration law refer to a specific list of offenses stipulated in the INA. This type of crime is defined differently in cases with immigrant defendants than for natural born citizens in the state or federal criminal justice system. A crime does not even have to be charged as a felony or involve aggravating circumstances to be considered an aggravated felony. Many aggravated felonies also classify as CMTs. According to the INA, the following crimes are aggravated felonies:
    • Crimes that are always charged as aggravated felonies, such as kidnapping, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, child pornography, rape, operating a prostitution business, or trafficking drugs or weapons
    • Crimes against the state, such as treason, sabotage, espionage, or terrorism
    • Crimes with a potential prison sentence longer than one year
    • Crimes that defraud victims of $10,000 or more

    Lawful permanent residents have the right to attend a formal hearing in Immigration Court to build a defense against their charge and the right to appeal the court’s decision. Unlawful residents can be deported without a formal immigration hearing or the ability to contest the court’s sentence. After an immigrant is deported for an aggravated felony, they cannot apply for a waiver to return to the U.S.

    An immigrant convicted of aggravated felony who applies for permanent residency will likely be deported immediately. An immigrant who was convicted of an aggravated felony but left the U.S. and illegally reenters the country can be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

  3. Controlled substances offenses. Drug offenses often carry the most severe immigration consequences, and nearly every type of crime that involves a controlled substance can result in deportation, including:
    • Possession of a controlled substance for personal use
    • Possession of controlled substances for sale
    • Drug manufacturing
    • Selling, transporting, or trafficking drugs

    In California, simple possession of marijuana (less than 30 grams) is legal, meaning it is not considered a deportable crime.

  4. Firearms offenses. Any offense related to firearms or destructive devices is likely to be deportable. This includes:
    • Illegally possessing, owning, carrying, or using firearms
    • Illegally selling, exchanging, or purchasing firearms
    • Conspiring or attempting to perform the above tasks
    • Committing assault with a firearm
  5. Domestic violence crimes. A crime of domestic violence refers to a violent crime committed against an individual by any of the following:
    • A current or former spouse or cohabitant
    • A coparent
    • A person considered a spouse by the domestic violence laws in the jurisdiction where the crime occurs
    • Any other person protected by federal, state, or local domestic violence laws

    Domestic violence crimes are classified as aggravated felonies under immigration law if a conviction involves a sentence of at least one year in prison. The following domestic violence crimes are deportable:

    • Use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against a person or their property
    • Any felony offense with a substantial risk of physical force against a person or their property
    • Child abuse, sexual abuse, endangerment, neglect, and abandonment
    • Stalking
    • Violating domestic violence protection orders (temporary or final)

What Are Inadmissible Crimes?

Convictions for the following types of crimes make an immigrant inadmissible:

  1. Crimes of moral turpitude. CMTs are inadmissible if the defendant is convicted of the crime or admits to all the elements of a crime. A CMT is only admissible if the conviction is for one crime, the maximum prison sentence does not exceed one year, and the defendant spends six months or less in prison.
  2. Controlled substances offenses. A drug crime is inadmissible if the defendant is convicted of a state or federal drug offense or admits all elements of the offense.
  3. Multiple convictions. An immigrant is inadmissible if they receive convictions for two or more crimes and the total sentence amounts to five years or more in prison.
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FAQs About Riverside, CA Criminal Immigration Laws

What is the difference between an immigration lawyer and an immigration consultant?

An immigration lawyer must graduate from law school with a Juris Doctor Law degree and pass the bar exams to obtain licensure to practice. An immigration consultant completes a six to 12-month course on immigration law, passes a national exam, and registers with the Secretary of State.

However, because they are not licensed to practice law, consultants cannot give legal advice. They can only perform limited services, primarily completing forms, translating your answers to questions on the forms, and submitting them. They cannot select the forms you need, instruct you on how to fill them out, advise you on how to answer questions, or represent you in immigration court.

What are the benefits of hiring an immigration lawyer?

An immigration lawyer can help you with immigration issues, including:

  • Helping you understand the immigration process
  • Evaluating the facts of your case to identify the types of immigration benefits you qualify for
  • Explaining the process for obtaining these benefits
  • Preparing applications for temporary visas, work permits, green cards, citizenship, naturalization, or adjustment of status
  • Ensuring all applications and other paperwork are filed correctly and on time
  • Preparing you for an interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Guiding you through the appeals process if your initial application is denied

A Riverside criminal immigration lawyer can help you navigate the criminal justice system by:

  • Defending you against criminal charges
  • Protecting your rights
  • Determining if you are eligible for post-conviction relief, such as by filing Padilla motions, motions for resentencing, or habeas corpus petitions
  • Ensuring you select the right type of post-conviction relief to avoid immigration consequences
  • Withdrawing a previous guilty or no contest plea
  • Reducing felony convictions for “wobbler crimes” to misdemeanors
  • Arguing for lower charges or sentences to avoid inadmissibility or deportation

How much does a U.S. immigration lawyer cost?

Immigration lawyers may charge flat fees or hourly rates. Flat fees are common when a lawyer performs certain services, such as completing and filing applications. If you are facing criminal charges or removal proceedings in Immigration Court, an attorney will likely charge you an hourly rate for representation based on the time, effort, and resources it takes to resolve your case. In California, you can expect to pay between $150 and $300 per hour, but this amount varies depending on the attorney’s experience, area of expertise, and location.

What should you look for in an immigration lawyer?

An immigration lawyer who defends clients in criminal cases should have:

  • Certification from the California State Bar Association
  • In-depth knowledge of immigration law and the criminal justice system
  • Experience handling criminal investigations and court proceedings
  • Extensive resources to build a strong defense strategy
  • Familiarity with the judges and prosecutors in the area
  • Trial-tested litigation skills in similar cases
  • Professionalism, compassion, and commitment to clients
  • Willingness to answer your questions honestly and completely
  • Transparent and reasonable fees
  • A consistent record of obtaining winning results for clients

Don’t Let a Criminal Conviction Disrupt Your Immigration Case

Immigration law is a confusing, complex, and constantly evolving field that is difficult for native born citizens to understand, let alone immigrants with language and cultural barriers. A conviction for certain crimes can carry significant immigration consequences, including being forcibly removed from the country. Although repeat offenders and those convicted of violent crimes are most at risk for deportation, immigration judges have broad discretion when classifying crimes, particularly crimes of moral turpitude.

If you are accused of a crime, the best way to protect your freedom is to hire a Riverside criminal immigration lawyer. While traditional criminal defense attorneys are well-versed in criminal law, they do not understand immigration law well enough to know how it applies to different offenses, how to advise you on your options, or how these options could impact your immigration status. At U.S. Law Center, we specialize in defending immigrants from criminal charges, so we can help you with any criminal charges you face.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our team. We are ready to protect your rights and mount an effective defense strategy that will not risk your current or future immigration benefits.

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