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4 Things Undocumented Individuals Need to Know After Being Arrested in Florida


There is a popular misconception that you have to be a citizen of the US in order to take advantage of the country’s civil rights protections in criminal cases, but this assumption is not entirely true. While some laws only apply to Americans, your status as an undocumented immigrant does not deprive you of basic freedoms. One of the most impactful laws that protects your interests is the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that the government is prohibited from:

  • Depriving “ANY person” of life, liberty, property without due process – i.e., without being given an opportunity to defend criminal charges
  • Denying “ANY person” equal protection of the laws – i.e., treating individuals the same without regard to their circumstances.

As you can see, the 14th Amendment does not use the term “citizen.” An undocumented individual is definitely a person, so you are entitled to due process and equal protection. 4 Things Undocumented Individuals Need to Know After Being Arrested Still, these legal concepts are applicable to criminal cases; the laws are very different when it comes to how an arrest or conviction affects your immigration status – and whether criminal activity could prevent citizenship. You will need assistance from a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney to handle the specifics, but here are four of the most important things non-citizens need to know after being arrested in Florida.

  1. You Have the Right to a Criminal Defense Lawyer: Because the immigration process is a civil matter, you do not have the right to counsel under US law. Criminal cases are different, and there is a distinct set of constitutional concepts and rules that apply. As such, you DO have the right to a lawyer when facing criminal charges. Note that it is wise to retain your own defense attorney, since public defenders are extremely taxed. They often cannot dedicate sufficient resources to a client whose case is complicated by immigration issues.
  1. It is Essential to Consider Implications for Immigration Status: There are multiple ways to resolve criminal charges, such as through a plea bargain or pretrial diversion, i.e., probation. However, obtaining a favorable outcome in the criminal case could still lead to consequences for the immigration process: You admit the misconduct through a plea agreement, which immigration officials do not look upon favorably.
  2. Certain Offenses Could Lead to Deportation: One consequence of engaging in criminal activity is that you could be subject to removal, even if the charges were subsequently dismissed. Immigration laws can be harsh on individuals who are accused of committed crimes of moral turpitude, such as:
  • Murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault and other violent offenses
  • Drug trafficking or manufacturing
  • Theft crimes
  • Many others
  1. Criminal Activity Could Impact Eligibility for American Citizenship: Applicants must prove good moral character under immigration laws, so an arrest and/or conviction could make you ineligible for US citizenship. Besides crimes of moral turpitude, you should be concerned about conviction or admission of drug crimes, subsequent offenses, human trafficking, conspiracy, fraud, and others.

Trust a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer to Protect Your Interests

For more information on these points and other legal factors, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can set up a consultation to review your circumstances and determine next steps.


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