It is serious for anyone to be charged with a crime in the State of Georgia. Georgia currently has one of the highest percentages of its adult population incarcerated. Even though Georgia signed into law a Criminal Justice Reform bill in May 2012, the state still carries significant possible jail time for non-violent offenders. This means that if you are charged with a crime in the State of Georgia, you should be aware that the crime you are charged with carries with it the possibility of jail time.
For foreign nationals, including lawful permanent residents and people legally in the U.S. on non-immigrant visas, a criminal charge should be taken very seriously. A conviction for non-citizens can reach further than the criminal penalties and result in long term immigration consequences. Attorneys representing non-citizen clients charged with crimes in Georgia must be aware of the immigration consequences and inform the client. Determining these consequences is not always easy and requires a thorough understanding of U.S . immigration law as well as Georgia criminal law.
A non-citizen does not have to be charged with a felony for immigration consequences to attach. The criminal charge could be a minor misdemeanor and still have severe immigration consequences. Because Georgia’s misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of 12 months, this raises numerous issues when negotiating or entering a plea. A plea negotiation that may be worth considering for a United States citizen may result in a non-citizen being placed into deportation proceedings and facing removal from the United States. For example, a simple battery is a misdemeanor in Georgia. However, the maximum sentence is 12 months in jail. This creates a major problem for the immigrant client because many times he or she will be sentenced to 12 months on a suspended sentence. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, convictions for crimes of violence resulting in a sentence of 12 months or more carry severe immigration consequences.
It is extremely important that immigrants understand these additional consequences to convictions of certain crimes. If you are an immigrant and have been charged with a crime, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who also has significant experience and expertise in immigration and nationality law.