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  • Writer's pictureKatharine Speer Rosenthal

When "case dismissed" leads to deportation

You pleaded guilty, and the judge sentenced you to probation, classes, and community service. You completed it all on time, paid your fees, and now your criminal record is clean...or is it?


U.S. immigration law defines "conviction" broadly A conviction for immigration purposes is any acceptance of guilt (guilty plea) or finding of guilt (by a judge or jury), plus any kind of penalty (fines, classes, probation, etc.). Once these 2 things are in place, even if the criminal court later dismisses your case, you still have a conviction according to the U.S. immigration authorities.

So if you were told that after completing probation your criminal case would go away completely, and you are not a U.S. citizen, you got bad advice.

A conviction sticks with you for life No matter how old your conviction, unless you can attack it on constitutional grounds, it will stay on your immigration record for life. In the past, criminal judges had more power to influence how immigration viewed convictions, but now this power is very narrow. The only way to remove a conviction from your immigration record is to show the criminal court that your constitutional rights were violated during the criminal proceeding and reopen your case.

What if my criminal lawyer didn't tell me about this? If you had a lawyer in your criminal case, and the lawyer did not tell you that pleading guilty could make you deportable or ineligible for legal immigration status, you may be able to reopen your criminal case and negotiate an "immigration safe" plea. If you think you may need to reopen a case, it is important to do so as soon as you become aware of the problem. At Access Immigration, we are experienced in helping clients reopen criminal convictions of this sort. If you are not yet a citizen, and you pleaded guilty to any crime without first consulting with an immigration lawyer, please call us to schedule a consultation and bring the court record of your conviction. Better yet, give us a call before pleading guilty to any crime, so we can help you negotiate a better solution.

UPDATE - September 2019

This post was originally published in 2015. On May 28, 2019, Colorado passed a new law that vastly expands the rights of people who successfully completed a deferred judgment but are still facing immigration consequences from their guilty plea.

The new law applies regardless of whether or not you had a lawyer in your criminal case. Even very old convictions are covered by this law.

If you successfully completed a deferred judgment in Colorado, but you are still facing immigration consequences from your conviction, reach out today to see if you qualify to take advantage of this new law. We look forward to serving you.

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