New York City owes much of its energy and excellence to the foreign citizens
living and working here. Unfortunately, a visa or green card holder's
right to remain in the United States can be seriously jeopardized by a
Desk Appearance Ticket, even when the charges are comparatively minor
misdemeanors. Many visa holders fail to take these arrests sufficiently
seriously because the charges seem minor (like marijuana or subway fare
theft) or because the arresting officer tells them "it's no big
deal." Truthfully, though, career, educational, and family plans
can be completely devastated by even a minor case of walking through the
subway gate without paying, so it is absolutely critical that a foreign
person arrested and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket retain competent counsel
In many ways, a Desk Appearance Ticket does not feel like such a big deal.
The arrested person is usually handcuffed and taken to a police station
where they are fingerprinted. They typically wait a few hours in a holding
cell until they are given a piece of paper telling them the date and location
of their appearance in court. Before Desk Appearance Tickets became routine,
criminal defendants could expect to get "sent downtown" and
spend the night in jail before seeing a judge. Obviously, Desk Appearance
Tickets are preferable for criminal defendants because they spend less
time in custody and also have the opportunity to choose counsel for themselves
prior to going to court.
Make no mistake, however: the issuance of a Desk Appearance Ticket is in
fact an arrest - it is not "just a ticket". More importantly
for visa holders, this event is not going to "fly under the radar"
with the immigration agencies. If you were arrested and given a Desk Appearance
Ticket, your fingerprints and the arrest charges have been sent to a New
York state agency (the Division of Criminal Justice Services) and to the
FBI, which maintains a federal nationwide law enforcement database of
all arrest events across the United States (the Interstate Identification
Index). Visa and green card holders should understand that the immigration
agencies, in processing visa renewal requests, access this database to
investigate whether the visa applicant has an arrest record. Indeed, some
visa holders actually receive emails from Department of Homeland Security
(Immigration & Customs Enforcement) agents after their arrests, because
the agency was notified of the arrest via the fingerprint database.
Generally speaking, visas will not be renewed if a visa holder has a pending
(meaning unresolved) criminal case. Our office has worked with many people
whose visas to work or attend school in the U.S. were denied on account
of having a pending criminal case, either forcing them to return to their
native country or preventing them from returning to the United States.
Of course, certain types of convictions can also prevent the renewal of
a visa, and can even result in removal or deportation for green card holders.
The rules pertaining to the effects of various convictions are too complicated
to full explain here - you should consult with an experienced attorney
on the subject.
If you received a Desk Appearance Ticket, it should tell you what you can
expect to be charged with when you go to court. Specifically, it will
list a "Penal Law" charge with the phrase "PL" followed
by a number next to the term "Top Offense Charge" or "Top
Count". The most common types of Desk Appearance Tickets include
charges of Petit Larceny (or shoplifting, PL 155.25), Criminal Possession
of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree (PL 220.03), Theft of
Services (PL 165.15), Criminal Possession of a Weapon (PL 265.01), Assault
in the Third Degree (PL 120.00), Trespass (PL 140.10), Public Lewdness
(PL 245.00), Forgery (PL 170.20), Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (PL
221.10), and Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree (PL 130.53). These charges
are all misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days or 1 year in jail.
Most individuals (without prior arrests) charged with these crimes do not
incur criminal convictions. However, many of the "best" dispositions
for these cases - called Adjournments in Contemplation of Dismissals (or
"ACDs") - involve long "probationary" periods of six
months or a year, during which time the defendants agree to remain arrest
free and complete community service or counseling in exchange for a dismissal
of the charges. Dismissals are generally great for defendants, so it is
hard to refuse such an offer from the prosecutor and court, normally.
Unfortunately for visa holders, these "probationary periods"
sometimes overlap with the deadlines for renewals of their visas, and
since the criminal charges are technically still pending during these
probationary periods, visas can and will be denied during these periods.
There are a number of possible solutions to this problem. Oftentimes,
we seek to have court dates advanced for our clients to avoid deadline
problems, meaning that the cases are brought to court sooner than originally
scheduled. Sometimes we are able to convince prosecutors to dismiss charges
outright. Other times, we simply petition prosecutors to shorten the "probationary
periods" on the ACDs to give our clients the opportunity to apply
for their visas without this impediment for renewal.
Criminal defendants holding visas and facing Desk Appearance Tickets should
also consult with an attorney prior to traveling abroad. New executive
orders signed by the President have complicated foreign travel for such
individuals. Indeed, foreign visa holders could risk being denied re-entry
into the United States by traveling while a criminal case is pending.
Our attorneys regularly represent foreign citizens charged with Desk Appearance
Tickets. In fact, on account of our close relationships with several foreign
consulates in New York City, over half of our criminal defense clients
are citizens of foreign nations. As a result, we understand the unique
challenges that holders of green cards of visas face after receiving a
Desk Appearance Ticket, and we understand how to best help our clients
avoid serious consequences for their visas or immigration status. We have
helped countless individuals with F1, K1, H1B, J1, O1, E3, H2B, B1, and
other visas remain in the United States so that they could pursue their
careers and educational opportunities, and we are proud to have been able to do so.
If you or a loved one are a foreign citizen and have received a Desk Appearance
Ticket, you should seriously consider the experienced criminal defense
attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP. Their team of former Manhattan
prosecutors will help you navigate the confusing criminal-immigration
system and work with your immigration attorneys to do everything possible
to ensure that your application for a renewal of your visa or green card
is unaffected by these criminal charges.