Immigration Expert for 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 has had success partnering with public defenders.
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 and to advise the client on immigration consequences if not. There are three usual ways for a criminal defense attorney to do this:
- Figure it out on his or her own. A bad idea, unless the criminal defense attorney has put in the time to learn immigration law and spends a few hours each month keeping up with new developments.
- Call up an immigration lawyer buddy for free advice. A bad idea—the immigration lawyer won't have the client's full immigration history and may miss something critical. Also, the advice probably won't be in writing, so there is a danger that it will be misunderstood or misremembered.
- 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.
- 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, which would include advice on language to include or other steps to get the maximum benefit from the proposal.
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 apply and whether they matter.
Negotiating for a Better Deal
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:
Some district attorney's offices, including the immigration committee at the Marin County District Attorney's Office, insist on a letter providing these types of details before they will consider 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, including the Alameda County DA, Contra Costa 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 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, not identical). They also 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.
But 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 those issues. 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. The courts have assigned this duty to criminal defense counsel, but Scott helps defense counsel meet it. He provides a written explanation of the consequences that your criminal defense attorney should use to advise you. 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. There is never any additional charge for this service. Scott will review the records upon receiving them from you or your criminal defense attorney.