Being arrested and facing criminal charges is a scary experience for anyone to go through. When an American is convicted of a crime, they may face jail time, fines and other challenges – such as difficulty finding a job, getting an apartment or being accepted for a loan.

But if you’re an immigrant, even more is on the line. In addition to all of the above concerns, you also have to worry about the possibility of deportation – even if you’re a permanent resident with a green card.

What not to do

If you’re ever watched a crime drama on TV, you probably know that if you’re arrested, you have the right to a lawyer – specifically, a criminal defense lawyer. This type of lawyer is sufficient for Americans facing criminal charges. However, as an immigrant, a criminal lawyer alone is not enough.

It’s important for immigrants to have both a criminal lawyer and an immigration lawyer on their side to help with their case.

Why do I need both?

A criminal defense lawyer is an expert in criminal law. They know what strategies to use to help you avoid getting convicted. However, a criminal lawyer does not know about immigration law – and some of the strategies they may use to help you avoid jail could actually put you at risk for deportation. For example, admitting fault or accepting certain offers could help to get your charges dropped in criminal court – but they could support an order for deportation in immigration court.

What can an immigration lawyer do to help?

It’s important for your immigration lawyer and your criminal defense lawyer to work together. Your immigration lawyer can help you – and your criminal defense lawyer – understand things like:

  • The safest way to communicate with immigration authorities
  • What no-contest or guilty pleas could mean for your case
  • How plea deals can protect or jeopardize your status in the U.S.
  • How to avoid doing anything that threatens your immigration status

As an immigrant, a criminal charge could be very serious for your continued life in the U.S. But you still have rights and options. It’s important to have a strong legal team on your side. That’s why it’s so important to have a criminal lawyer and immigration lawyer working together on your case.