America is a country of immigrants and as the years have passed, more and more has been made of being in the country “legally” or “illegally.”
Sadly, this has had an impact on people charged with crimes and who are dealing with the consequences. For people not born in the United States, a simple conviction can put in jeopardy their status in the country.
Even something as simple and seemingly minor as a drug arrest in Jacksonville can lead to a possible deportation. That’s why fighting a criminal charge is so important. There are many consequences beyond a conviction and a possible jail or prison sentence. Any person can face tangential sanctions if they are convicted of a crime.
In this case, a man who is a native of Jamaica, but who entered the country legally in 1984 when he was 3, was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in 2008. He was sentenced to five years probation.
The Department of Homeland Security discovered the plea and took action to remoce him under federal immigration laws, saying that the controlled substance offense made him an “aggravated felon” because the conviction was considered a “drug trafficking crime.” A judge ruled that the state conviction was essentially equal to a federal felony and that the man was subject to removal from the country.
An appeals court looked at the case and agreed with the lower court. It found that “drug trafficking crimes” are considered “aggravated felonies” even if the state crime is a misdemeanor. The appeals court ruled that the defendant had the responsibility in immigration court to prove that his conduct was only misdemeanor in nature.
Immigrants, even those who entered the country legally as this man did some 25 years ago, must also consider the consequences of a conviction or a plea. It is a burden they have that American citizens do not.
But that’s something that must be part of the discussion with a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer. All things must be taken into consideration when someone decides to enter into a plea agreement with the state. That is magnified for an immigrant.
In many cases, that’s why going to trial and taking an aggressive approach to the case is the best bet. There is always the chance of a not guilty verdict at trial or a conviction on a less-serious charge that can keep a person in the country. A plea only guarantees the charge to which a person agrees to plead.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
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