Can a thrown out shoplifting charge affect my green card or affect citizenship application? 5 Answers as of October 15, 2012

A friend was charged for shoplifting but the case was eventually thrown out after going to court. He was told that after a year, no record would exist and it would be like it never happened. He has been in public relations for five years and has no other record. Would this affect his citizenship application? I know that there are questions on the N-400 that specifically asks about charges even if they were sealed or cleared.

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Havens & Lichtenberg PLLC
Havens & Lichtenberg PLLC | Michael Lichtenberg
The applicant should disclose all arrests on his N-400 application and attach a Certificate of Disposition from the court showing that the charges were dismissed. Only convictions can make you ineligible for naturalization; dismissed charges can hurt you only if you try to conceal them from USCIS.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 10/15/2012
All American Immigration
All American Immigration | Tom Youngjohn
It depends on whether the charge being "thrown out" was indeed pre-conviction relief rather than post-conviction relief. For example, if the "deal" was a Stipulated Order for Continuance, where your friend did not stipulate to the facts of the police report, he should be in luck. Assuming no other criminal record, then your friend should be fine on his N-400. Of course the arrest must be reported on the N-400 and documented with a copy of the police report and a Certified Copy of the Court Docket. If it was not pre-conviction relief, but post conviction relief, then the being "thown out" part most likely does not count, and it is still a conviction. He'd want to see if it qualified for a "petty" theft exception. Get multiple opinions from at least two immigration attorneys. Depending on how the "getting thrown out" deal went down, your friend might still need to seek post conviction relief, modification, etc.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 10/10/2012
Law Office of Rebecca White
Law Office of Rebecca White | Rebecca White
He will still need to disclose the arrest and have an immigration attorney review the records he has of the charge.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 10/10/2012
Law Offices of Grinberg and Segal
Law Offices of Grinberg and Segal | Alexander Segal
He must disclose his arrest regardless of the outcome. His failure to disclose the arrest could potentially be worse than disclosing the arrest. He will also need to provide a certified disposition. Assuming the case was dismissed and he had no further issues, it should not impact an application for permanent residence or citizenship. However, I would need to review the actual certificate of disposition to determine whether it could be a potential problem.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 10/10/2012
Immigration Attorneys, LLP | Robert R. Gard
If your friend was ever fingerprinted, he will need to provide certified dispositions of the arrest. If the file was sealed, that may actually involve going into court for an Order to UN-seal the file for the purpose of obtaining these certified copies, and then re-sealing the file. That is why we always recommend getting copies which may be needed later at time of the initial court proceeding before the file is sealed, to avoid the time, expense, and all around hassle of getting the file unsealed at a later date. Any impingement order or similar order of the Court to "throw out" the charges is an order of a State or local court, and the Federal Government (USCIS) has always maintained that they are not bound in any way to honor or give effect to an order of impingement or pardon from a State Court/agency. If the arrest was expunged and fingerprint/mug shots were returned to your friend, I can pretty much assure him that not all copies of those prints were returned, as at least one copy went to the Federal Government or FBI databases, and those are NOT affected by any State Court impingement order, and those records will be found by any bio metrics check in the Federal system. The shoplifting charge by itself, in the absence of any other offenses, should not be a deal killer for an N-400 Application, but it will have to be disclosed and fully documented, as the N-400 form even asks for disclosure of acts committed that would be considered to be a criminal act, even if you were never arrested or charged in connection with those acts.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 10/10/2012
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