The Potentially Catastrophic Impact Probation Before Judgment in Maryland Can Have if You’re an Undocumented Immigrant

As most lawyers — and a lot of other people who interact with the legal system can tell you — the law has many quirks, peculiarities, and loopholes. Sometimes, those nuances may work to your benefit. Other times, though, they represent potential pitfalls to be avoided. These loopholes represent just one more serious reason why, if you’re a non-citizen facing possible criminal charges here, it pays to have a Maryland attorney on your side who’s familiar with both immigration law and this state’s criminal laws.

A lot of states have something called “probation before judgment” (PBJ). This is when a criminal defendant is placed on probation before a judgment is entered in their case. If that person complies fully with the terms of his/her probation, then no conviction is entered on his/her criminal record.

Delaware has PBJ. Virginia does as well. Maryland also does but, for the unwary non-citizen, Maryland law contains a potentially catastrophic loophole, which some state legislators are seeking to close.

Under the current Maryland law, PBJ could lead to a terrible outcome for these non-citizen defendants, even if they complete the terms of their probation 100% perfectly. A non-citizen who did that would have no conviction on his criminal record. However, at the same time, Maryland law would treat this interaction with the courts as a conviction for purposes of federal immigration law. In other words, even though your criminal record would show no conviction, that case could ultimately be the trigger that gets you deported.

By contrast, if you complete probation successfully as a result of a Virginia PBJ arrangement, that state’s laws say that you cannot be deported.

Probation, Not Deportation

Currently, Maryland’s legislature is weighing closing that loophole. House Bill 559, Probation Not Deportation, would modify this state’s laws to align it with others such as Virginia in that PBJ would not be a potential deportation trigger. That bill passed the House by a wide margin of 87-41.

Of course, as things currently stand, PBJ does still function as a potential deportation trigger. That’s an extremely important consideration if you’ve been offered PBJ as a means of resolving your criminal case. If you were in a state like Virginia, agreeing to PBJ might make a lot of sense but, here in Maryland, this state’s laws — with the looming possibility of deportation based on that PBJ — might make agreeing to such a resolution less advantageous.

This is just one example of a seemingly counterintuitive loophole within the law. Counterintuitive though it might be, it is the law and it’s an example of the traps that can exist for those people — especially undocumented non-citizens — who are not armed with skillful representation provided by an experienced lawyer.

To make sure that you have representation that fully utilizes the law to your benefit, and that protects you from the pitfalls the law creates, count on the diligent Maryland deportation defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. We’ve helped many non-citizens to preserve their jobs and their families by avoiding devastating deportations, and we’re eager to discuss how we can help you. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form today.

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