Immigration Expert - California Criminal Charges
Attorney Scott Mossman consults with criminal defense counsel to minimize the immigration consequences of criminal charges. He has developed expertise in the field by working in it on a weekly basis. Scott has served as immigration counsel to a large San Francisco Bay Area criminal defense firm since 2009 and he works with several other prominent defense lawyers as well. He also welcomes the opportunity to partner with public defenders and court-appointed counsel.
Three Types of Immigration Advice on Criminal Charges
All criminal defense attorneys should know by now to ask whether a client is a citizen of the United States. If not, defense counsel must advise on potential immigration consequences and attempt to mitigate them. There are three usual ways for a criminal defense attorney to do this:
- Figure it out on his or her own. A bad idea. Immigration law changes so quickly that a lawyer needs to practice it full time to keep up.
- Call up an immigration lawyer buddy for free advice. Another bad idea. The buddy likely won't do a full intake and consultation with the client. This may result in a critical oversight. Also, the advice probably won't be in writing, so there is a danger that it will be misunderstood or misapplied.
- Get a letter from an immigration expert. A good start, especially if the defendant actually meets with the immigration attorney to review his or her entire history. This type of letter usually is meant to be a self-help reference for the criminal defense attorney. It is not meant to persuade a reluctant prosecutor and the service usually does not include follow-up help.
Full-Service Partnership to Negotiate a Better Deal
Attorney Scott Mossman offers much more than a self-help letter. When he joins your team he actively works with your criminal defense attorney to get you the best possible deal for your individual situation. He also makes sure that you understand the real-world immigration consequences of the deal.
Reviewing the Immigration & Criminal History
Scott‘s services always begin with a thorough review of your immigration and criminal history. Whether a particular conviction would be a crime involving moral turpitude, aggravated felony, deportable domestic violence offense, etc., is almost meaningless without knowing that history. Your individual circumstances determine which immigration consequences matter.
Immigration Attorney Opinion Letter
Once Scott understands your immigration priorities and options, he advises defense counsel on whether the prosecutor‘s plea offer will meet them. If not, he provides tools to negotiate a better resolution. The primary tool is an opinion letter. The opinion letter will:
- Summarize your immigration circumstances and priorities, as well as state any favorable discretionary factors.
- Explain, with citations to legal authority, the harmful immigration consequences that would result if you accepted the District Attorney‘s plea offer.
- Offer an alternative disposition that would minimize the immigration harm, with argument on why it is a just result that is consistent with the alleged facts.
- Provide advice on the best way to execute the alternative disposition, including language to include and other steps to take to get the maximum benefit from the proposal.
Some district attorney's offices insist on a letter providing these details before considering alleged immigration consequences. Prosecutors in other counties may not have a blanket rule, but a letter from an immigration expert always is more persuasive than an unsupported claim by defense counsel. Scott has submitted opinion letters to support negotiations with all of the DA's offices in the San Francisco Bay Area. Those include the Alameda County DA, Contra Costa County DA, Marin County DA, San Francisco DA, San Mateo County DA, and Santa Clara County DA.
Scott understands that a counter-offer in his opinion letter must be credible. He will work with defense counsel to come up with a disposition of the criminal charges that is reasonable given the charges and the strength of the evidence. Most prosecutors insist that the criminal penalties for an immigrant defendant be equivalent to what a citizen would receive. (Equivalent does not mean identical.) For more serious offenses, prosecutors typically insist that there be a plausible factual basis for the plea. Scott has extensive experience negotiating deals that meet these concerns while still protecting you.
Continuing Support for Plea Negotiations
What if the District Attorney will not agree to Scott's recommendation? As with any negotiation between two parties, the first proposal may not be accepted. Scott will continue working with defense counsel to negotiate the best possible plea for you. If the prosecutor has questions or doubts about the immigration consequences, Scott welcomes the opportunity to address them. He can do that by email or in a conference call. He has found this can move the negotiations along.
Advising the Client
An important part of Scott Mossman‘s services is to make sure that you as the client personally understand the immigration consequences of the proposed deal. In Padilla v. Kentucky the Supreme Court assigned this duty to criminal defense counsel, but Scott helps defense counsel meet it. Scott would be glad to meet with you and answer your questions directly too.
Confirming the Disposition
Finally, a deal is only as good as the record of it. An error by the judge or clerk in recording the terms of the conviction or sentence can be disastrous. To avoid this type of situation, Scott is always willing to confirm that the record of conviction (or other disposition) satisfies the immigration requirements. Scott will review the records upon receiving them from you or your criminal defense attorney.