STERN Law, LLC was started in 2013 and became the first firm solely dedicated to crimmigration. It centers on building a fundamental understanding of criminal law, immigration, and its impact on the other. When a non-citizen is accused of a crime, they must also defend themselves against a litany of potential challenges to their immigration status. Namely, the federal government’s requirement that they don’t violate laws of deportability or inadmissibility to enter the U.S. after certain criminal convictions. Also, a legal resident must exhibit “good moral character” to be naturalized.
For non-citizens, criminal defense attorneys are forced to look beyond their normal scope of practice. A solution to a criminal charge might inadvertently jeopardize the non-citizen’s path towards becoming a legal permanent resident or a citizen. To a criminal defense attorney, getting a client’s charges dropped if their client completes community service may appear to be a victory. In most scenarios, it could be. It is critical not to overlook how an immigration authority would view this as a dismissal. The client is left without the criminal court repercussions of a conviction, yet they still may suffer the ramifications of consequences under U.S. immigration law - like being deported, not admissible to enter or become a legal resident, or prevent U.S. naturalization.
Non-citizens view criminal attorneys as a source for resolving the apparent urgent issue at hand - the criminal allegation alone. We often hear, “we’ll deal with the immigration part afterward.” Both the client and the criminal defense lawyer may consider these as two separate legal disciplines. Still, they are inextricably intertwined and cannot be regarded as separate from the other.
The onus lies on the attorney to recognize that a non-citizen’s immigration status is at risk. Criminal defense attorneys should reach out to a crimmigration attorney as soon as they receive a non-citizen client. By consulting with a crimmigration attorney, a defense attorney has a definitive view of what the client’s best scenario truly looks like - from the very start of the criminal case and every step of the way.
Having a general command of the law is never enough; it applies to their client’s specific situation. Those principles apply very importantly to crimmigration cases as well. There is no standard set of rules that can be applied blindly to a non-citizen facing a criminal charge.
There is something distinctly powerful about having a specialized legal team. Attorneys should seek these resources out rather than shy away from them for the good of the client. A criminal defense lawyer would be remiss not to use the guidance of an expert’s analysis of a ballistics report in a case involving a firearm. In the same vein, a criminal defense attorney could utilize an expert’s opinion on a plea or verdict’s impact on a non-citizen’s status.
STERN Law, PLLC
If you are a criminal defense attorney who represents non-citizen clients, STERN Law offers consulting services. Our focus is on helping you find the best results for your client. We can provide a report and written assessment about the specific immigration status of your client.
Our legal analysis aims to assist attorneys in finding a resolution that doesn’t disrupt the immigration process or create a situation where your client is at undue risk for deportation. Contact us to see how we can consult for you.