Written by attorney Mindy Michelle Carr

Before you Plea: Know the Collateral Consequences of a Conviction

For many people, jail time and fines are not half as bad as some of the "collateral" (not court-imposed) consequences of a conviction.

Immigration Consequences:

If you are not a U.S. citizen, some convictions can lead to deportation. Under a recent Washington Supreme Court case,_ State v. A.N.J._, it is ineffective assistance of counsel for an attorney to fail to advise his client about the immigration consequences of a plea deal. The client must know about those consequences before he can make an informed decision about the plea.

Immigration consequences depend on the crime charged, the sentence received, and the facts of the individual case. Immigration law is very complicated and not clear-cut. For example, some convictions that usually have no immigration consequences can lead to deportation if they involve a controlled substance. A misdemeanor like theft 3 can be considered an aggravated felony if the sentence imposed is one year -- regardless of whether the court suspends most of the sentence. A good Seattle criminal lawyer will try to negotiate a deal with a 364 day sentence to avoid these immigration consequences.

Because immigration consequences are so it is important to

  1. Hire an attorney who knows about the immigration laws surrounding criminal convictions,
  2. Tell your attorney that you are not a U.S. citizen so she will know about your concerns, and
  3. Talk with your attorney about the potential immigration consequences of plea offers you are considering.

Consequences for your Driver's License:

DUI and the crimes that DUI is usually amended to in a plea deal (e.g., reckless driving, negligent driving, physical control) usually do not have any immigration consequences -- despite what Bill O'Reilly might want. There might be immigration consequences if those crimes involve a controlled substance, however, so it is important to speak to a Seattle criminal lawyer if that is the case.

But, DUI has drastic collateral consequences for your driver's license. It's important to understand these consequences if/when you plead guilty. With the new ignition interlock license, if you plead to DUI, you will still be able to drive if you follow all the requirements of that license. You must install the device in your car and any cars that your employer requires you to drive. If your employer allows you to drive a company owned/leased car without the ignition interlock device, you must file with the Department of Licensing a form signed by your employer before you drive the employer-owned car without the device.

If you drive a car without the ignition interlock device, the State can charge you with a misdemeanor (becomes a GROSS misdemeanor if you do this after January 1, 2011). If you tamper with the device or ask another person to tamper with it (e.g., asking someone to blow for you), the State can charge you with a misdemeanor.

--> If you are convicted of either of these crimes, it is important to know that the collateral consequence is that the DOL will CANCEL your ignition interlock license. This can be devastating if you depend on your car to get to work. So, before you plead guilty to a deal that sounds pretty decent, make sure your Seattle Criminal Lawyer has tried everything to get a better outcome for you.

The next blog entry will focus on the lesser crimes you can plead to when you are charged with DUI (reckless driving, negligent driving, etc.) and their collateral consequences.

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