Noncitizens must be very careful about how they plea in criminal court as a “conviction” for immigration purposes is not the same as the criminal definition of conviction. A foreign national who has not been convicted in criminal court may still find himself subject to removal/deportation as a result of a particular plea. In some cases, a plea that may result in a minimal fine or probation can still trigger harsh penalties in the immigration context. Working with experienced immigration counsel is critical to ensure the best possible outcome on both the criminal and immigration sides of the case.
Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.712(c)(8) requires trial judges to advise noncitizen criminal defendants of the potential immigration consequences of pleading guilty or nolo contendere. In Padilla v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court extended this duty to criminal defense counsel.
If you represent a noncitizen in criminal proceedings, it is imperative that you seek the assistance of competent immigration counsel. What may be best for your client in the criminal context, could be detrimental in the immigration context.