Friday, December 7, 2012

Criminal Charges Can Affect Your Immigration Status in NJ

Failure to understand immigration consequences is not always the reason for pleading guilty to criminal charges in New Jersey. The case of State v. Nunez-Valdez (200 N.J. 129 (2009)), resulted in substantial changes in the way criminal pleas are handled where there may be negative immigration consequences. In a case where defendant, in the country illegally at the time, was charged with third degree burglary, third degree resisting arrest and second degree attempted aggravated arson to and entered a plea to third degree burglary and fourth degree defiant trespass in the Hudson County Superior Court. The plea agreement permitted the State to argue that the court sentence defendant to a term of up to three years but defendant's lack of criminal record made it likely defendant's argument for a probationary sentence involving participation in an alcohol abuse program would prevail. At sentencing, defendant stated he was aware intoxication might be a defense to some of the charges included yet waived the right to assert that defense. Defendant later made application for his green card then was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and detained at the Essex County Correctional Facility as a result of the Hudson County conviction. At that time, defendant began to assert his innocence and stated he would never have entered a guilty plea had he known the immigration consequences. The New Jersey Appellate court found defendant knowingly and voluntarily entered the guilty plea in order to receive a probationary sentence rather than incarceration. They Appellate Court also decided that any immigration consequences to defendant could not be linked directly to the guilty plea due to the passing of years between the plea and the detention. Criminal charges of any kind, including shoplifting, should not be taken lightly if you are not a U.S. citizen. If you are not a U.S. citizen and you have been charged with a crime you should seek an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to protect your rights and immigration status. For more information on criminal or municipal court/traffic matters in New Jersey visit This blog is for informational purposes only and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney regarding your specific matter.

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