Immigration Concerns in Domestic Violence Criminal Cases and Protection Order Cases

There are two primary concerns illegal immigrants face when facing criminal charges or when requesting or responding to domestic violence protection orders. First, for parties to a domestic violence protection order proceeding, appearing before a judge or even entering a courthouse may generate fear of being arrested and detained. Second, those facing criminal accusations of domestic violence may be subject to deportation or exclusion if they are convicted of criminal charges for a domestic violence crime.

Domestic violence charges or the granting of DV protection orders can have major life consequences. Adding fears related to immigration status makes the situation even more difficult. As an attorney who understands that her clients may be facing more than one legal issue at a time, Jennifer Horwitz strives to understand the full picture and offer sound legal advice based on all the circumstances. If you are not a U.S. citizen and are facing a domestic violence issue, Jennifer Horwitz Law offers a safe place to address your legal issues and concerns. 

What is Domestic Violence?

Washington statute defines domestic violence as: 

physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, sexual assault, or stalking of one intimate partner by another intimate partner or by another family or household member.

 Revised Code of Washington section 26.50.010

What is a Domestic Violence Order for Protection?

A domestic violence order for protection is a court order that allows a judge to issue many types of relief to the requesting party, which may include: 

  • prohibiting acts of domestic violence; 
  • prohibiting in-person contact with the protected party;
  • prohibiting someone accused of domestic violence from being in a specified location or within a certain distance of a specified location, including a shared residence, workplace, or school; 
  • prohibiting harassment, surveillance or other forms of contact such as through social media accounts, email, text or phone; 
  • requiring the accused to surrender firearms and weapons 

Being a Party to a Domestic Violence Proceeding

If you are involved in a domestic violence proceeding, whether you are the party seeking an order for protection or the party responding to the request for the order, it can be scary to appear before a judge, particularly if you do not have legal status in this country. With reports that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has shown up in courthouses across Washington state to arrest immigrants appearing for state court hearings, fear is an understandable response. 

Recognizing these concerns, the state of Washington has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in federal court seeking an order barring the arrest at courthouses. Likewise, the Washington legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit ICE from making arrests without a warrant within one mile of a state courthouse. The goal is to make sure that all parties feel safe accessing the justice system.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, it is important to consider your immediate safety and take action to make sure that you and your family remain safe, whatever your status is in the United States. 

If you are accused of domestic violence, failing to appear at a court proceeding could result in a default judgment being entered against you (for a protection order case), or a warrant (for a criminal case). In the case of the issuance of a warrant in a criminal case, this means you could be arrested for the failure to appear and held on the case until it is resolved (which could also make you more vulnerable to being taken into immigration custody if you do not have legal status in the United States).  In a protection order proceeding, failure to appear may mean that an order is dismissed if you did not appear as the petitioner or an order is granted without you arguing your side of things, if you are the respondent.

The Potential for Deportation

Aside from the risk of arrest at the courthouse, the outcome of a domestic violence proceeding can impact your immigration status as well. If your domestic violence case is referred for criminal prosecution, a criminal conviction could result in an order of deportation or could result in exclusion from the United State if you leave the country and then attempt to return. 

Under federal law, noncitizen of the United States who is convicted of domestic violence or child abuse crimes may be deported. 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(E)(i). Similarly, violation of any portion of a domestic violence order for protection is also grounds for deportation. 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(E)(ii). This means (1) if you have a criminal conviction for domestic violence, or ((2) if an order for protection is entered against you and you are convicted of violating the terms of that order, the federal government can initiate removal proceedings against you.

The potential for deportation raises the stakes of failing to participate in a domestic violence proceeding. If you are not a citizen of the United States and have received information about domestic violence proceedings being initiated against you, it is important that you speak to a knowledgeable attorney to protect both your rights related to your family but also your immigration rights.  Although Jennifer Horwitz is not an immigration attorney, she is aware of the immigration consequences of many domestic violence case outcomes and also works in consultation with immigration attorneys as well.

Washington Domestic Violence Representation

Your immigration status may have the unfortunate impact of making either your domestic violence criminal case or your domestic violence protection order case more complex. With over 25 years of experience representing both petitioners and respondents to domestic violence protection orders, as well as people accused of domestic violence crimes, Jennifer Horwitz has the skills necessary to recognize when your immigration rights may be affected. If you need legal guidance related to a domestic violence matter, whether you are accused of a crime or are a petitioner or respondent in a DV protection order case, contact Jennifer today.