Q: Looking for a Criminal Immigration / Deportation Defense Lawyer from Pennsylvania
In November 2022, my partner and I were charged with a retail theft summary offense (CC3929) of $149 and criminal conspiracy (CC0903) in Philadelphia, PA. We were arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, and given a citation copy with a court date. Considering we had no priors, our criminal attorney was able to get the case 'withdrawn' before our court date, after a few hours of voluntary community service. Our charges have been expunged as of May 2023.
I am currently on an F1 visa, and my partner is on H1B status. We intend to stay in the US in the long term and want to take all the necessary steps to make us immigration safe (at POE when we travel or apply for a change of status).
We have spoken to immigration lawyers before but they haven't had enough experience handling similar cases in the past. We are specifically looking for crimmigration or deportation defense lawyers (from PA) who have experience dealing with retail theft cases from a federal perspective.
A: A lot is at stake, and you are right to be searching for an attorney who is well versed in both state criminal and U.S. immigration law and practice, including deportation defense (EOIR), affirmative applications (USCIS), and U.S. entries (CBP). Your attorney should also have a high level of active experience in both legal areas. As a practitioner who fits this description, your question raises many issues and questions of importance, including: is the commission of the criminal activities (retail theft, 18 Pa. C. S. § 3929, and criminal conspiracy, 18 Pa. C.S. § 903 ) a violation of the terms and conditions of either of your visas (F-1 and H1B)? now that the matter has been expunged, will U.S. Immigration still know of the arrest and court disposition? how and when should the arrest and court disposition be discussed under questioning in future applications for legal status (and has it been, if need be, properly disclosed previously)? what, if any, evidence of the resolved event will be required for production at future interviews/applications for adjustment/legal status, and what, if any, questions will be asked regarding this, and how can we prepare properly for these questions? what will I be asked, if anything, at the POE by CBP Officers, and what is secondary/deferred inspection? As you well know, U.S. Immigration takes a cold hard look at any contact with the criminal justice system, including arrests, and each application and interview is laced with questions regarding exactly your scenario. Being prepared for these questions and situations is very important. To start, your chosen immigration lawyer will want to have an original certified copy of the criminal court disposition, if possible, in their file (acquired from the Clerk of Courts of the Criminal Justice Center (Philly), unless they have already purged their system/files), and will want to speak with your criminal defense attorney to assure themselves of the disposition of your case. Plan on working with a trusted immigration lawyer for the "long haul", as the path from F-1 and H1B to lawful permanent residency has many twists and turns, and you will want to handle this situation carefully as it will be, unfortunately, a repeat issue.
A: Given the complexities of the intersection between immigration and criminal law, it's crucial to seek representation from an attorney well-versed in both areas, often referred to as "crimmigration" attorneys. Pennsylvania has several lawyers experienced in crimmigration matters. I would recommend conducting a thorough search of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's directory or reaching out to local legal organizations for referrals to attorneys with experience in this specific niche.
A: There are lawyer referral sites out there. The closest thing here that could supplement your own independent searches could be the "Find a Lawyer" tab above. There are also attorney referral resources on state and local bar association sites. Those resources are outside this forum and any arrangements made would be between you and the law firms you reach out to. Good luck
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