SAN ANTONIO, Texas. Individuals who are found guilty of certain crimes can become deportation priorities under new ICE rules. For individuals who face deportation to countries where they would return to communities with high crime, high gang activity, or to countries where they run the risk of being killed, deportation might be far worse than any jail sentence. However, until recently, the courts did not agree.
The Washington Post reports that the New York State Court of Appeals found that deportation is a serious penalty that could be seen as similar to jail time or the loss of liberty. The case involves a person who faced six months in jail for a misdemeanor charge. The individual asked to have a jury trial because if he was found guilty, he would face deportation. The lower court denied his request, but the New York State Court of Appeals disagreed with the denial, noting that deportation could be more serious than jail time in some cases.
This ruling could have implications for immigrants facing criminal charges in other states, including Texas.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees individuals the right to trial by jury for serious offenses. The Supreme Court generally tends to see six months’ jail time as the cutoff between less serious and more serious offenses, but when an individual could also face deportation, the New York ruling may have an impact on how courts need to view even smaller, minor offenses—at least when it comes to immigrants.
What does this mean if you are facing deportation, or if you are an immigrant and are facing criminal charges? First, if you are facing criminal charges, but have not been convicted, you may want to speak to a criminal defense attorney as well as an immigration lawyer. Ideally, both attorneys can work in concert to help you understand how a criminal conviction could impact your status. The Law Office of J. Joseph Cohen is a San Antonio, Texas deportation lawyer who can review your unique situation and help you understand the consequences. Every situation is unique. For example, the Washington Post notes that even under the New York court ruling, not all immigrants would be able to secure a jury trial for minor offenses because not all immigrants would face deportation for the conviction of these minor offenses. Yet, even individuals facing charges for minor offenses should take precautions. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, immigrants charged with a range of crimes are today facing deportation because of ICE’s new deportation priorities. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, individuals with misdemeanors, probation violations, theft, and shoplifting have been subject to removal. The law doesn’t clearly define what constitutes a “criminal alien” so if you are facing any kind of criminal charges, no matter how minor or serious, it may be wise to seek legal counsel.
Still, in some cases, having a jury trial could be beneficial because statistically, juries tend to vote to acquit, while judges statistically convict.
If you have questions about deportation or your green card, contact the Law Office of J. Joseph Cohen, a San Antonio, Texas green card and deportation lawyer. In today’s shifting legal climate it is now more important than ever to protect and understand your rights.