This New Florida Change Can Help Immigrants Facing Criminal Charges Protect Their Chances for Citizenship


Posted on November 09, 2015 by Jeffrey Feiler

Each year, the Florida Supreme Court amends the Rules of Criminal Procedure to address current events. This year, the Court made various changes, including, what a Judge must ask a Defendant who is entering a Plea of Guilty or Nolo Contendre (No Contest) concerning Immigration Consequences. The Rule is Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.172. Section 8A-D of the Rule is now specifically titled "Deportation Consequences". The Rule takes into account the rulings in cases such as Padilla and Hernandez.

It is very important that a Defendant, when entering a Plea, understands that beyond the criminal case, their Plea could subject them to Immigration consequences. These consequences may include Deportation, Removal or denial of Citizenship. All too often, a client who was unaware of possible Immigration consequences learns years later that even what seems like a minor case, like possession of marijuana, can nevertheless cause major Immigration problems for them. Even if the adjudication was Withheld, or No Conviction at the State level, the Defendant may have to deal with significant immigration consequences.

If the Defendant is not a citizen of the United States, a finding of guilt by the court, regardless of whether adjudication has been withheld, may have the additional consequence of changing his or her immigration status, including deportation or removal from the United States. Judges must now inform the Defendant of this potential consequence. The court should advise the Defendant to consult with counsel if he or she needs additional information concerning the potential deportation consequences of the plea. If the Defendant has not discussed the potential deportation consequences with their counsel prior to the plea, the court is required, upon request, to allow a reasonable amount of time to permit the defendant to consider the appropriateness of the plea. The court must not require at the time of entering the plea that the defendant disclose his or her legal status in the United States.

It would be a very good idea for every criminal defense attorney to consult with an Immigration lawyer and that the client (who is not a US citizen) should be willing to include the services of an Immigration lawyer to their defense team if a plea is being contemplated.

At the Jeffrey Feiler law firm, when I represent a client who is not a citizen, I always inform my client that we have to be careful about Immigration consequences. I either confer with an excellent Immigration attorney, such as Kari Ann Fonte, or refer the client to her for consultation. On numerous occasions I have been able to craft a plea which does not get the client in trouble with Immigration. I have also been able to revisit closed cases and have succeeded in collaborating with the State Attorney to determine an appropriate final resolution. Contact Jeffrey Feiler at the Feiler Law Firm today at (305) 670-7700 to have your case evaluated!

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