The American criminal justice system arrests and prosecutes a lot of people – both citizens and non-citizens alike. But if you are an immigrant, you face a potential consequence that U.S. citizens do not: the threat of deportation.
This can be even more difficult if you do not really understand that that you or a family members can be deported if you or they plead guilty to certain crimes. After all, language barriers, as well as the complexities of the legal system, can make it hard to really grasp what is going on. Before you even know what happened, deportation may be a done deal.
This is why there is currently a federal rule that requires lawyers for non-citizens to communicate with them about this. The rule requires these lawyers to tell their clients that they can face the consequence of deportation if they plead guilty to designated crimes.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether that rule should be extended. The decision will have important implications for Minnesota immigrants and others across the country who may face possible deportation due to criminal convictions.
In a decision in March 2010, the Supreme Court held that immigrants have the right to be informed to at least some degree of the consequences of pleading guilty to criminal offenses. The federal appeals courts, however, have not agreed on whether this decision should apply retroactively, to previous cases.
The case the Supreme Court has agreed to hear involves a woman who was seeking to become a naturalized citizen. She had, however, pleaded guilty to mail fraud a few years earlier. Her lawyer, she said, did not tell her about the possibility of deportation because of her guilty plea.
Source: “Supreme Court weights expanded warnings on deportation risk,” Reuters, Jonathan Stempel, 11-1-12
Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Minnesota immigration page.