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What is a "Conviction" for Immigration Purposes?

Immigration and criminal law intersect an incredible amount. Unfortunately the definitions for both areas of law are not always the same. This is especially true for the word "conviction."

Here are some examples of what immigration authorities would consider a conviction:

  • A client’s guilty plea
  • If a client pleads guilty and the judge orders that they pay court costs as a result of the case
  • If a judge or jury rules the client guilty and sentences a penalty, such as probation, fee, jail or counseling
  • If a client has pled guilty or been found guilty, even if the conviction was removed after rehabilitative activities
  • Convictions for minor drug offenses after July 14, 2011, even if later withdrawn or expunged
  • A drug court disposition where the defendant admits to being an abuser is grounds for deportation or inadmissibility, even if the drug offence in question is part of a pre-plea drug diversion and would not be otherwise considered a conviction.
  • A juvenile court disposition where the client has to admit to sex work (prostitution), drug addiction or abuse, or to having been or helping a drug trafficker.
  • A client who is judged guilty, where the counsel has submitted an appeal of right, is considered a conviction until the ruling is overturned.

Some Exceptions

Here are a few examples of court proceedings that would not be considered convictions.

  • In a DEJ (deferred entry of judgment) disposition, if the only penalty was a fine that was unconditionally suspended
  • In California:
    • First convictions for possession of controlled substances, if the conviction took place before July 15, 2011 – under the influence convictions do not qualify for this exception. Any probation violations also disqualify them.
    • Infractions
  • Depending on the date of the case, a disposition made under a “pre-plea drug diversion,” in other words a drug court disposition that does not require a plea
  • Juvenile delinquency proceedings, regardless of the results of the case.
  • When a court vacates a judgment of conviction in its jurisdiction for cause (and not for rehabilitation or hardship)

NOTE: Some immigration authorities will use mere “conduct” to find a noncitizen deportable or inadmissible. This can look like documented sex work, false claims to citizenship, using falsified immigration documents, drug use, smuggling, drug trafficking or assisting drug trafficking, or the self admission or drug use and other acts of “moral turpitude.”

Need Counsel for Immigration? Call Today!

Immigration law can be complicated and this article does not cover all the issues regarding convictions and immigration. These cases can be extremely complex, and a single misstep could potentially lead to a deportation or other immigration penalties. If you have any questions regarding your immigration case, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Call our law firm to consult with an immigration attorney today at: (949) 285-1836