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Immigration, Credit Cards and Criminal Law

Immigration, Credit Cards and Criminal Law

In a recent case in Medina County, following a long, drawn out battle, VanHo Law was able to obtain the dismissal of a case involving a business dispute that turned into a criminal case.

In the case, a small business owner was charged with passing bad checks after a check was dishonored by the bank. The full story included that the services that the check paid for were performed horrifically -- to the point that it caused the business to suffer extreme losses as a result of the "victim's" work. Years later, the business still has not recovered.

The case raised a number of legal issues, which is why the case took much longer than possible. However, at the end of the case, all charges were dismissed against the VanHo Law client.

But the case brought two major issues to the forefront:

1) When possible, business owners should pay for services via credit card -- not check. If the services are performed in a substandard manner, the business owner can dispute the payments with their credit card companies. However, by cancelling the check, the business owner started the chain of events that ended with a felony indictment.

While there may still be civil issues by challenging the payments with your credit card company, and a civil suit may follow, business owners can severely reduce or eliminate the risk of criminal liability.

2) In the case, one of the options for the business owner was to enter into a diversion program. The problem: the client is a foreign citizen who has been in the United States legally for several decades.

The problem with intervention in lieu and diversion programs is that the Department of Homeland Security and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") are now viewing admissions made to enter into diversion and/or intervention programs to be prior convictions -- even if the case has been sealed or expunged.

In a recent case that has attracted national and international attention, a Michigan doctor is now facing deportation over decade's old misdemeanors. The doctor, who has been in the United States since he was approximately five years old, had been convicted of the two misdemeanors when he was seventeen. He had also pled guilty to a DUI almost a decade ago.

Immigration officials detained the doctor and are commencing deportation proceedings -- wanting to send the doctor back to Poland. In making their decision, Immigration officials are using convictions that were part of a first-time offender program. Even though the convictions were sealed, officials are using the convictions as evidence of crimes of moral turpitude.

While this case is continuing to proceed through the legal process, it -- and other cases like it -- are raising concerns for lawyers as to how to deal with cases involving legal (and illegal) immigrants. This case has even put attorneys in the position of not recommending diversion or intervention programs to non-citizens, including Green Card holders.

This may eventually force attorneys to take cases to trial in an effort to help clients avoid deportation proceedings -- or force sympathetic prosecutors to reduce charges instead of offering diversion programs.

In this client's case, had he entered the diversion/intervention program, he would have risked the triggering of deportation proceedings. This would have potentially split him from his family, including his children, who are American citizens.

As each case is different, it is important to have an attorney who understands the potential ramifications of a criminal conviction -- even a misdemeanor conviction -- on cases involving immigrants.

If you or a loved one is facing this issue, please contact VanHo Law at 330-653-8511 to discuss your situation and case.

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