How Criminal Charges Affect Immigration Proceedings

Immigrants that are currently undergoing the legal naturalization process in the U.S. face harsh consequences if they get arrested for a crime. While you might still be in the US, your application for citizenship will no longer be considered valid or relevant. Basically, if you get arrested while you’re still undocumented then you’re likely to get deported.

how criminal charges can affect immigration proceedings | statute of liberty

Therefore, the best course of action to take if you get arrested is to seek the counsel and representation of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Florida. Your attorney will assist you in exploring other more favorable outcomes that may even enable you to evade a conviction completely. As they say, knowledge is power, so here’s some useful information on the implications of an arrest on your immigration application.

Arrest vs. Conviction

It’s important to first know the difference between an arrest and a conviction. The definition of both terms is the same for immigrants and citizens alike. An arrest means that you’ve been detained on a suspicion that you’ve committed a certain crime. However, you are detained based on probable cause and haven’t yet been found guilty. A conviction means that the state was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you’re guilty. 

By definition, an arrest doesn’t require as much information as a conviction, and if you’re in one of the following situations then it means you haven’t yet been convicted of a crime:

  • A resolution for your case was determined through probation.
  • The court has established you as a delinquent through juvenile court, an outcome which is very different from a conviction.
  • You went through a full trial and were acquitted due to a lack of proof from the prosecutor
  • The charges against you were dropped after the arrest due to a lack of sufficient evidence on the part of the prosecuting attorney.

When Does an Arrest Matter?

Good moral character is one of the most important considerations that U.S. immigration law takes into account when deciding on a case. Another consideration that U.S. immigration officials will look into is your arrest record. If it’s found that you have had a history of drug abuse or drug trafficking, this will be taken as part of your character assessment. Therefore, it’s not necessary for you to have a conviction in order for the U.S. government to deny your citizenship application.

Prior Arrests

As you undergo the naturalization process, it’s important that you disclose any arrests, convictions, detentions or citations that you’ve been through prior to your application. It’s also in your best interest to reveal whether you’ve engaged in criminal activity, regardless of whether or not you were convicted for those activities.

Keep in mind here that the whole point of this exercise is to prove that you have good moral character and that you have maintained a good record five years prior to your application. This is not to say that officials won’t look into an earlier part of your past because they can go back as far as 10 years if they find something of interest in your history.