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The Potential Immigration Consequences of a Texas Domestic Violence Conviction

Immigration has long been a politically charged subject here in the Houston area. Federal authorities have aggressively moved to deport not just immigrants who entered the U.S. authorization, but also lawful immigrants convicted of certain crimes in Texas courts–including domestic violence charges. In fact, even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction could theoretically lead to the initiation of deportation proceedings.

Houston Court Rules Attorney Did Not Fail to Properly Advise Client Regarding Possible Deportation

The Texas First District Court of Appeals here in Houston recently confronted such a case. This case began when two Harris County paramedics responded to a residential emergency call. When they arrived at the scene, the paramedics said they found a woman “who seemed frightened and was curled up on a couch in the garage,” and complaining of pain. The woman told the paramedics her husband, the defendant in this case, “got into an argument and it became physical.” Suspecting domestic violence, the paramedics contacted the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, which conducted an investigation and arrested the defendant.

At trial, the defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge of “assault of a family member,” which is a misdemeanor under the Texas Penal Code. Testifying in his own defense, the defendant noted both he and his spouse were “lawful, permanent residents of the United States,” and he did not know if the charges against him–or a conviction–would “jeopardize his residency status.”

The jury ultimately convicted the defendant. The trial judge issued a one-year suspended jail sentence and placed the defendant on community supervision (probation) for 18 months. On appeal, the defendant argued he was entitled to a new trial because his attorney failed to advise him of the “immigration consequences of pleading not guilty and proceeding to trial,” i.e. that he could be deported if convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.

The First District rejected this argument and upheld the conviction. For one thing, the defendant acknowledged “that his trial counsel advised him that pleading guilty would result in his deportation.” And it was not clear to the Court of Appeals how accepting a guilty plea of any kind–as opposed to taking his chances at trial–would have “reduced the likelihood of his deportation.” Indeed, the Court said the defendant failed to provide any evidence that the prosecution even offered a more favorable plea deal. Therefore, he could not blame any error on the part of his attorney for his present predicament.

Finally, it is worth noting that, as of the date of the First District’s opinion (August 28, 2018), no deportation proceedings had been initiated against the defendant, and the Court said it expressed no views on whether or not the defendant’s misdemeanor conviction “actually subjects him to deportation under federal immigration law.”

Speak with a Galveston and League City Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Today

Regardless of what ultimately happens to the defendant in the case above, any non-U.S. citizen charged with domestic violence needs to be concerned about possible immigration consequences. This is why you need to work with an experienced Houston domestic violence defense attorney if you are charged with assaulting a spouse or family member. Call (281) 280-0100 or contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates online if you need immediate legal assistance.