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Can a Tennessee criminal record affect citizenship?

Though Federal Immigration Law is different from Tennessee criminal courts, having a criminal record may have a negative impact on a non-U.S. citizen's immigration status. The intersection of criminal law and immigration law is an emerging issue. Currently, if an immigrant has been convicted for crime or plead guilty, under Federal immigration law they may potentially face deportation, denial of citizenship and excluded from entering the U.S. altogether.

Many a time those charged with a crime may feel that entering a plea of guilty may be the right thing to do. But, pleading guilty has long-term and dire consequences for the individual particularly non-U.S. citizen. Under a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, the court held that the failure on part of the attorney to inform their client of the potential immigration ramifications of pleading guilty to charges amounted to ineffective counsel.

The consequence of having a criminal record particularly for non-U.S. citizen is a very serious matter. It is very important for the person facing a criminal charge to consult with a competent criminal defense attorney who can advise the person on the consequences of being charged, and potentially being convicted. But, it is very important to remember that being charged with a crime is not the same as being convicted.

In fact many states including Tennessee have codified protections for the person facing a criminal charge. Under the current Tennessee Rule 11 if a guilty plea is being entered, the court must directly address the person facing the charge to ensure that they understand their rights such as the right to a jury trial, to remain silent, the right to not plead guilty, the nature of the criminal charge and the plea that is being offered, and the court must also ensure that the person, particularly one who is not a U.S. citizen, understands the implications and effects on one's immigration status of the entering such a plea.

Source:, "Rule 11: Pleas," accessed on March 9, 2015

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