The term conviction means that a court has entered a formal judgment of guilt in your case. If a formal judgment has not yet been entered, you may still be “convicted” if:
– A judge or a jury has found you guilty, you have entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere,
– or you have admitted sufficient facts to warrant a finding of guilt, and
– The judge has ordered some form of punishment, penalty, fine, community service, or
– restraint on your liberty to be imposed.
Basically, if you were found guilty or you admitted sufficient facts of your guilt and you somehow have been punished for your actions, you probably have a conviction for the purposes of your immigration court proceedings.
In 1996, the definition of conviction changed and the courts have been determining which criminal convictions have immigration consequences.
Some convictions are no longer considered convictions in criminal court but are still considered convictions for the purposes of removal proceedings. For instance, the following are considered convictions for immigration purposes:
– “Deferred adjudications” are convictions that are given in “specialized courts” (such as drug courts and domestic violence courts) whereby a judge accepts the defendant’s plea and orders treatment. Upon completion of this treatment, the judge vacates or reduces the defendant’s original plea. Therefore, the conviction is vacated or reduced for criminal purposes. However, the initial plea combined with the judge’s order to attend a program is still considered a conviction for immigration purposes;
– The Second Circuit has held that an expungement of a non-drug offense may be a conviction for immigration purposes.
– Convictions that are vacated for reasons solely related to rehabilitation or immigration hardships, rather than because of procedural or substantive defects in the underlying criminal proceedings, may still be considered convictions for immigration purposes.
On the other hand, the following are not considered convictions for the purpose of removal proceedings:
– Youthful offender adjudications (as defined by Federal law);
– A conviction that a trial or appeals court vacates because it was legally defective, and
– A disorderly conduct violation.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, a criminal conviction can result in deportation, denial of citizenship, and denial of re-entry into the U.S. A criminal defense attorney can help you fight the charges and maintain your immigration status.