Should State’s Attorneys Take a Defendant’s Immigration Status Into Consideration When Crafting a Plea Disposition?

consitution-1-300x185A recent New York Times article on July 31, 2017 “Prosecutors’ Dilemma: Will Conviction lead to ‘Life Sentence of Deportation’?” exposed the new phenomena in which many prosecuting authorities throughout the United States are taking into account the immigration status of defendants accused of crimes and often lowering charges and creating plea bargains to keep them out of trouble with ICE and avoid a unintended consequence of deportation as an outcome of the disposition of their criminal case.

This is known as a “immigration-consequences” policy in which the prosecuting authority will consider immigration ramifications of a resolution of a criminal case to work to avoid exposing the defendant to the possibility of deportation.  This kind of policy is employed in Seattle and in many jurisdictions throughout California and has been gaining in popularity in response to the Trump Administrations increasingly aggressive deportation of undocumented aliens who are convicted of even minor criminal offenses.


Ironically, those who support this policy and those who oppose it both point to the same principle of the law – “treating everyone the same.”  This of course makes it very difficult to draw sides on this difficult debate.  Those prosecutors who adopt these “immigration-consequences” policies in their offices are acting under the principle that they want to treat everyone “the same” by not imposing life sentences of deportation upon people facing minor crimes who happen to be undocumented aliens when a U.S. Citizen would not face such a harsh penalty for a similar offense.  In order to even the playing field they craft creative alternative sentences for undocumented aliens to structure plea deals in such a manner that they will not be exposed to any adverse immigration consequences.


On the opposite side of the fence we have prosecuting authorities like the State’s Attorneys in Connecticut who treat everyone “the same” by not offering any special breaks to undocumented aliens.  They feel that they do no deserve any special break that a U.S. Citizen would not be afforded solely on the basis that they happen to be here in the United States illegally.  Hence for this group of prosecutors treating everyone “the same” means having a blind eye to the immigration status of the accused and prosecuting the case simply based upon the facts of the crime and what ever plea offer is warranted irrespective of the immigration status of the accused.


I think in Connecticut we have to realize that the status quo is not changing anytime soon and that undocumented aliens charged with criminal offenses will continue to face additional risks and burdens in resolving their cases. With deportations on the rise the stakes are higher than ever in the criminal justice system for undocumented aliens facing criminal prosecution.

My perspective here is to simply point out both sides of the argument and let the reader make his/her own decision which argument is the correct position.  What is crucial is that every undocumented alien facing a criminal charge in Connecticut should seek the services of both an experienced criminal defense lawyer and an immigration lawyer.

If you would like to discuss a criminal defense matter with Attorney Friedman he provides free initial consultations and can be reached 24/7 at 203.357.5555.



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