Pleading “Guilty” or “No Contest” as a Non-Citizen

Oct 22, 2015 | Convictions

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Eligibility Criteria for Adjustment of Status

Pleading “guilty” or “no contest” as a non-citizen can shatter your future.

The stakes are incredibly high—potential deportation, loss of residency, and devastating consequences for your family.

Imagine the stress of navigating this complex legal terrain without the right guidance.

This article breaks down what every non-citizen needs to know before making such a critical decision.

Empower yourself with the knowledge to protect your status and avoid life-altering repercussions.

As a Miami immigration lawyer who has helped numerous clients embark on a path to citizenship, I like to forewarn clients of the limitations of being a non-citizen. One of these limitations pertains to the immigration consequences of pleading guilty or no contest as a non-citizen. Below are some frequently asked questions.

I have a green card. Do I still have to worry about immigration consequences of pleading “guilty” or “no contest”? 

Yes,  pleading “guilty” or “no contest” may well have adverse immigration consequences for you, even if you have your green card.

I have a green card, and my criminal defense lawyer is encouraging me to plead guilty or no contest!

You need to understand that criminal defense lawyers may encourage such a strategy to help you avoid a trial and jail time. However, you also need informed advice about whether the conviction to which you agree will result in removal proceedings (i.e. deportation) being instituted against you. If this scenario applies to you, I would highly recommend that you speak with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options. Do not make the mistake of making an uninformed decision that could land you in a bad situation.

I have already made a plea bargain. What are my options?

If you have already made a plea bargain and been convicted of a crime that could make you deportable, you should speak with a Miami immigration lawyer to see if there is anything else you can do to avoid deportation.

What counts as a “conviction?

If you were arrested for a crime but the charges were dropped or dismissed, it is not considered a “conviction.” However, if you did get arrested, be aware that arrests can have immigration consequences. In addition, if you were charged as an adult in juvenile court despite being under the age of eighteen, you could still be deported for your crime. Also, a common misconception is that a plea to withhold of adjudication is not a conviction for immigration purposes. This is false.  If you have any questions as to what counts as a “conviction,” I would highly recommend that you speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

I was never officially found guilty. Will I be deported?

You may still be deported if you were never officially found guilty. According to immigration law, a person can be found to have been “convicted” of a crime with or without having been formally judged guilty.

I pled “guilty” or “no contest”. Will I be deported?

Yes, you may still face deportation.  You should speak with a Miami immigration lawyer in regard to your options. This is true even if the plea is later “withdrawn” after you complete court-ordered requirements such as drug or alcohol rehabilitation or counseling.

I entered into a pre-plea diversion program. Will I be deported?

Pre-plea diversion programs (where you do not have to enter an official plea) and deferred prosecution or sentencing will not count as a conviction for immigration purposes. Still, I would strongly suggest that you speak with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.

My records were expunged. Does this mean that do not have to face immigration consequences?

No. Even though some states will allow you to expunge your criminal record after a certain period of good behavior an expungement of a criminal conviction will not allow you to avoid removal proceedings. If this scenario applies to you, you should speak with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.

I have a criminal conviction, but it has been vacated. Will I still have to face immigration consequences?

You may have some relief if you are able to vacate your previous criminal conviction. I have been successful in instances where a client’s conviction was deemed unconstitutional and a judge vacated it “for cause.” Then, I asked the Immigration Court to terminate my client’s deportation proceedings. Again, this is no guarantee – you should speak with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.

The bottom line is – anything short of United States citizenship will not protect you from deportation or removal proceedings should you run afoul of the immigration authorities due to prior criminal convictions.

If you would like more information on the immigration consequences of a prior criminal conviction, or of pleading “guilty” or “no contest”, please contact Miami immigration lawyer The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A., Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at