A criminal defense lawyer must always be aware of whether his client is a citizen or not. A case can have huge a huge impact on a defendant’s life if he is not a citizen. Many city and county jails now screen their inmates to determine whether they are in the country legally or not.
Even if one is in the United States legally with a “green card” one can be deported if a conviction is sustained in court. In California, every guilty plea on any misdemeanor or felony requires the court tell the defendant that if he pleads guilty it may have the consequence of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization pursuant to the laws of the United States. What this means to the criminal defense lawyer is that he must resolve the case for his client without any jail time.
The fact that a client says, “I can’t go to jail” won’t make it so. Many times the lawyer will do all that he or she can but the law requires jail time. Once the defendant enters the jail system the Department of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) will swoop in on them and issue a detainer holding them in custody even once the jail time is served. A small offense can lead to swift deportation from the country. The defense lawyer knows what is at stake.