Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Even a Deferred Adjudication is a Conviction for Immigration Purposes

Deferred adjudication programs can offer a break to first time criminal offenders.  The idea is that a formal adjudication of guilt is withheld.  If the defendant shows a time of good behavior, often one year, then charges can be dismissed or reduced.

 But, what appears to be a good deal for criminal purposes could land a non-citizen defendant into hot water for immigration purposes.  This is because of the broad definition of "conviction" under U.S. immigration law.  A conviction includes not only a formal adjudication of guilt, but also any admission of guilt or of facts sufficient to find guilt, so long as some form of punishment is given.

In most deferred adjudication programs, the defendant has to admit guilt, or the judge has to find that the prosecutor has alleged sufficient facts to find guilt.  The result is usually some form of a suspended sentence, or some form of probation.  But, this is enough under immigration law to be considered a conviction.

This means that upon acceptance of a deferred adjudication program, immigration authorities can commence removal proceedings.

The defendant in this article from the Oregonian found that out the hard way.  According to the Oregonian, he worked as a cashier and would give his family unauthorized discounts or ring up false returns.  The result was a felony conviction which could be reduced to a misdemeanor.  However, because there is a felony conviction, which was likely considered an aggravated felony for involving a crime of theft for which a sentence of one year or more was imposed, it triggered ICE to commence deportation proceedings.

Given the broad definition of "conviction" under U.S. immigration law, it is advisable that a non-citizen defendant facing criminal proceeding receive accurate immigration advice.  In that way, an informed decision on whether to accept a plea bargain, accept deferred adjudication or push for a trial, can be made.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8332

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