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Talking to your Immigration Attorney about Prior Arrests

Talking to your Immigration Attorney about Prior Arrests

When you meet with your immigration attorney for the first time, it is important to disclose every time that you have had contact with law enforcement. You should disclose every time that you have been arrested or been to court in the United States, or abroad. Your immigration attorney will not judge you and s/he is bound to keep anything you say confidential. However, they must know everything about your arrest and conviction history in order to give you complete and accurate advice.

What Documents Should I Bring to the First Meeting?

If possible, you should obtain a Certified Disposition for every arrest that resulted in a court appearance and for every conviction you’ve ever had. You should be able to obtain this document from the Clerk of Court in the county in which you went to court. You should also bring any other documents that you have from your arrest or court proceedings. Your attorney will be looking at a few things (1) the state statute under which you were arrested or convicted, (2) the sentence you received, (3) any other notable information. Your attorney can help you determine for which arrests you’ll need a Certified Disposition.

What is the Attorney Looking For?

The attorney is looking for any potential grounds of inadmissibility, or anything that might preclude you from receiving an immigration benefit for which you’d otherwise be eligible. Your attorney is looking for ‘crimes involving moral turpitude’ and ‘aggravated felonies.’ ‘Crimes involving moral turpitude’ and ‘aggravated felonies’ are terms of art in immigration law and prior convictions should be evaluated by an experienced immigration attorney to see if they fall into either category. Crimes of particular importance are drug crimes, crimes that involve an element of deceit (theft, forgery, or fraud), or crimes that include any element of violence. Some convictions that seem inconsequential can have serious implications in immigration law.

What If I Can’t Remember All of My Arrests?

If you can’t remember your arrest history or what happened in a particular case, your attorney can run your fingerprints with the FBI or with the state police to obtain your arrest history. You can also request a ‘rap sheet’ from individual police departments.

Other Things To Know:

  • Expungements: If you’ve had a conviction expunged, it is imperative that you speak with an immigration attorney before applying for an immigration benefit. When applying for an immigration benefit, it is your job to provide immigration with a certified disposition of your case; if you are unable to provide immigration with a record of your conviction, your application may be denied. If you’ve had a conviction expunged your immigration attorney can help brainstorm ways to prove what happened in your case, in lieu of a certified disposition.
  • Record of Conviction: Immigration is not entitled to see your entire criminal case file. There are specific documents which they are entitled to see; you should speak with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you decide which documents you can and should submit to immigration.
  • Foreign Convictions: Convictions in other countries count for U.S. immigration purposes and should be disclosed to your attorney.
  • Admissions of Fact: Immigration could deny an application if an applicant admits to facts of a crime for which they were never arrested or convicted. You should not make any admissions to an immigration official or consular officer without speaking with an experienced immigration attorney first.

Your immigration attorney is your advocate, and it is essential that you disclose all of your arrest and conviction history so that they can give you complete and accurate advice. Many times a waiver is available for a prior arrest, and after evaluating your arrest history, your attorney can explain your options to you.

If you have been arrested in the past and would like to apply for an immigration benefit, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in cases involving prior arrests, grounds of inadmissibility, and waivers. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help!


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