If your lawyer in a criminal case says, "That's an immigration question," look for a new lawyer!
Immigration consequences in criminal cases
If you are not a citizen, a criminal conviction can have serious consequences, including removal (deportation), denial of citizenship, and even permanent exclusion from the United States.
The criminal defense attorney's duty to non-citizen clients
Many criminal defense attorneys don't invest the time, money and effort to become competent to advise non-citizen clients, even after the United States Supreme Court said they have a duty. Fortunately, the California legislature thought it was important enough to pass a new law to protect non-citizen defendants.
Penal Code 1016.3 requires lawyers to provide competent advice on immigration issues.
This new law, effective 1/1/16, says "Defense counsel shall provide accurate and affirmative advice about the immigration consequences of a proposed disposition, and when consistent with the goals of and with the informed consent of the defendant, and consistent with professional standards, defend against those consequences."
The District Attorney has to consider immigration consequences, too.
Penal Code 1016.3(b) says: "The prosecution, in the interests of justice [...] shall consider the avoidance of adverse immigration consequences in the plea negotiation process as one factor in an effort to reach a just resolution."
Finding the right lawyer
Make sure your lawyer understands your immigration status. A lawyer cannot disclose your immigration status without your permission. If the lawyer doesn't understand how your case affects your immigration status, look for a different lawyer. Sadly, not all lawyers who advertise as criminal defense attorneys invest the effort to learn about immigration law.
Additional resources provided by the author
Check out the resources available at the Immigrant Law Resource Center.
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