What are my constitutional rights?

When in custody

  • You have the right to remain silent. Never talk to the police unless your lawyer is present
  • Make your defense in court. Avoid offering explanations, stories, or excuses to the police
  • Ask to see your attorney immediately
  • Do not think it will be “too late” if you wait for an attorney- you can always give a statement later

At home

  • You don’t have to let the police enter your home unless they have a warrant. A warrant is an order signed by a judge which gives officers the right to search the places listed in the warrant. Officers must give a copy of the warrant and list of anything they take
  • Only in emergency situations and if you have consented may the police enter and search your home without a warrant
  • If you are arrested during a search of your home, the police may search you and take evidence of a crime that is in plain view

Vehicle Stops

  • If the police ask to search your car, say no. If they search it anyway, make it clear that you do not agree with the search
  • Signing a ticket is not an admission of guilt
  • Do not consent to drug-sniffing dog searches
  • A passenger in the car may be ordered to step out of it but does not have to answer any questions or provide any information

Street Encounters

  • If you are stopped, you can refuse to answer questions
  • Ask the police officer if you are free to leave. If the police officer says “yes” then leave. If the police officer says no, then ask why you are under arrest
  • Police cannot lawfully require that you identify yourself or produce identification if they don’t reasonably suspect that you are involved in a crime
  • An officer may do a “pat down” search of your clothing is he suspects you have a weapon. Do not resist but make it clear that you do not agree to be searche

How can I become a U.S. Citizen?

In order to become a U.S. citizen, you must:

(1) have been admitted to lawful permanent residence for five years (three years if Green Card obtained through marriage to U.S. citizen);

(2) you must be 18 years old;

(3) you must be maintain continuous residence for five years (three years if Green Card obtained through marriage to U.S. citizen);

(4) you must be physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the 5 years (or half of the 3 years if you obtained a Green Card through a U.S. citizen spouse);

(5) you must be a person of good moral character for the 5 years (or 3 years if the alien obtained a Green Card through a U.S. citizen spouse);

(6) you must demonstrate an elementary level of English (reading, writing, understanding); and,

(7) you must have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of history and government of the U.S.

Special exceptions to some of the general requirements are available for the disabled, members of the military, veterans, spouses married to U.S. citizens living overseas, and Legal Permanent Residents who work for certain organizations that promote U.S. interests abroad. Similarly exemptions from the English language requirements are available for those over 55 years who and have lived in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident for 15 years, or are over 50 years old and have lived in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident for 20 years.

What is the basic law that governs immigration?

The Federal Immigration and Nationality Act provides the basis for U.S. immigration law.

Under what circumstance will a foreign fiance(e), who has been admitted into the U.S. for the purpose of getting married, be required to leave the U.S.?

If the marriage to the U.S. citizen who filed the petition to permit the fiance(e) into the U.S. does not take place within 90 days of entering the U.S., the fiance(e) will be required to leave the country.

Under what circumstance will a foreign spouse’s permanent resident status in the U.S. be conditional?

A spouse’s permanent resident status will be conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than two years old from the day the permanent resident status was granted. To remove the conditions, the spouse must establish that the purpose of the marriage was not to evade the U.S. immigration laws.

Can a deportation or removal order be appealed?

Yes. The alien has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration (BIA). If the BIA decides against the alien, the matter can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Finally, if the Court of Appeals also finds against the alien, the matter can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

How is the deportation process initiated?

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement issues a Notice to Appear (NTA) stating the reason why the alien should be deported or removed. The NTA is served to the alien and is filed with the immigration court. A hearing is scheduled, at which an immigration judge will determine if the information in the NTA is correct. If it is, removal of the alien will be ordered.

What is the basis for being deported? What are the consequences of deportation?

Deportation (or removal) occurs when an alien is found to have violated certain immigration or criminal laws, consequences being that the alien forfeits his or her right to remain in the U.S., and is usually barred from returning.

What are some factors that are considered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in granting an individual immigration status?

Factors considered by the USCIS include:

  • Whether the applicant has an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • Whether the applicant has a permanent employment opportunity in the U.S., and whether that employment fits under one of the five eligible employment categories;
  • Whether the applicant is making a capital investment in the U.S. that meets certain dollar thresholds, and that either creates or saves a specified number of jobs; and
  • Whether the applicant qualifies for refugee status as an individual who suffers or fears persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political view, or membership in a certain group in his or her country of origin.

If I’m stopped for driving under the influence, can a police officer ask me questions without reading me my rights?

Sometimes. The answer depends on whether or not you are in police custody — that is, whether you are subject to the restraints common to a formal arrest. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the police do not have to provide Miranda warnings during roadside questioning of a motorist detained pursuant to a traffic stop. Thus, roadside questioning about your drinking, drug-taking, or performance on field sobriety tests does not constitute “custodial interrogation.” However, once you are arrested — or restrained by the police in a manner consistent with arrest — you must be read your Miranda rights.

What is an MVA hearing and when should I request it?

Because you refused to take a sobriety test and therefore got your license revoked, you have a right to request an MVA hearing which must be done within 10 days of your arrest. We advise you to always request the MVA hearing. An MVA hearing provides you with the opportunity to question the police officer about the legitimacy of his stop and to test his knowledge with regards to field sobriety testing.

Do I have to take a sobriety test?

You do not have to submit to field sobriety tests. Even if you have not been drinking, the tests can erroneously show an alcohol level. Your license will probably be suspended if you refuse to take a sobriety test, but you may request an MVA Hearing to attempt to have your license returned or the suspension modified.

What can an attorney do for me once I’ve been arrested?

  • Your attorney can ensure that the police and prosecutor have gotten all of the procedures correct. Minor mistakes can get your case dismissed from court.
  • An attorney can ensure that your legal rights are protected. She may be able to negotiate a favorable plea depending on the circumstances. There are no guarantees, but without a lawyer there is no chance.
  • Asking for an attorney stops the police from questioning you