Criminal ChargeWhen you are arrested and charged with a crime (assault, shoplifting, drugs, fraud, etc.), your basic information such as name, address, the date of birth, and the Social Security Number will be asked. In addition to such information, when you are convicted for a crime, your biological information such as eye color, height, fingerprints and photo will be taken and entered into National Criminal Information Center (NCIC). NCIC is one the major national criminal databases used and shared by law enforcement and Federal agencies all over America and you will be registered as an individual with a prior conviction. This record will last forever and can be used to match other information to check your criminal history or for immigration purposes. Having a criminal conviction on one’s record can lead to serious immigration consequences. Depending on the record, you can and might be deported, refused to re-enter America, rejected to renew a visa or permanent residency, or rejected to obtain any type of visa at all.
Both the Federal Government and the State of New Jersey define Criminal Law while only the Federal Government defines Immigration Law. A key issue in defending a non-US citizen is how a record of conviction from the State level will be reflected in the scope of Immigration Law.
Due to such complications, the consequences of a criminal conviction on immigration status are often misunderstood. Some examples follow.
False Belief 1:
“ Conviction will affect immigration status only when the charge has been indicted.” (WRONG!)
Many people have a false belief that a record of conviction will affect immigration status only when the charge has been indicted. You should understand that the record of conviction itself can affect immigration status regardless of indictment. For example, if you were convicted in Municipal Court for possession of drugs, depending on the record this can affect the defendant’s immigration status.
False Belief 2:
“ If prosecuted in Municipal Court, that will not affect immigration status.” (WRONG!)
This is another common misconception. Again, what affects immigration status is the record itself, not where you were prosecuted. The court of prosecution is determined by a County Prosecutor’s Office. When a conviction record in a relevant database triggers attention, ICE can take appropriate action accordingly.
You, as a non-US citizen, should remember that any criminal conviction will last forever in the database and have a possibility of affecting your immigration status.
If you are a non-US citizen, you should always remember that you do not have the automatic right to stay in America forever. Evidence of bad character, aside from any criminal record, could make it difficult to justify eligibility of staying in this country.
If you are arrested or have a prior conviction in New Jersey, contact the New Jersey Criminal attorney Bartholomew Baffuto, Esq. for a consultation.