The interplay between immigration detainers and pending criminal charges is a complex and bewildering one. The law is evolving every day, and missteps have very serious consequences. It is often Kafkaesq.
One of the big problems is that the busy judges in the all purpose criminal parts don’t want to deal with the subtle nuances of why a particular criminal defendant is not before them. They have a 65 case calendar to get through before lunchtime, and there’s no time for the criminal defense lawyer’s long-winded explanations about the subtle nuances of a Pennsylvania immigration jail. Out comes the rubber stamp, “thump”, WARRANT ORDERED. This happens- wrongfully- with some regularity.
Our client (before he was our client) was arrested in the Bronx. He made bail, was released, then picked up by immigration authorities. He was subsequently indicted, the DA lifted not a finger to get him back to court from federal custody, and the judge ordered a warrant. He was later stopped in Canada, and held on an international warrant for his attempted murder charges in the Bronx. New York declined to extradite him, he was released after a few weeks, and he continued to live in fear that he would be stopped and detained again, for the same criminal charges.
We persuaded the court to vacate the warrant without our client appearing, and to entertain our motion to dismiss the felony criminal charges on statutory speedy trial (“30.30”) grounds, since the DA should have produced our client in the first place.
We’re pleased to report that the judge granted the motion to dismiss. Notably, it was the very same judge who had ordered the warrant in the first place- an impressive “my bad”, from the judge, even if she unfairly deflected some of the blame in her written opinion on to the Bronx criminal lawyer who represented our client at the time, who in fact had made all the right arguments.
The bottom line is that when a criminal lawyer is representing a deportable alien, a warrant is a very serious matter. It takes a bit to break through the judge’s impatience and to explain both the facts, and the law, to the judge, and to do it in a way that does not piss the judge off. That’s the art, and that’s the dance.
Here’s a copy of the court’s decision:
Featured as a “Decision of Interest” in the New York Law Journal, Here: