All Immigrants in New York have Right to Trial by Jury

by Jose Enrique Perez

Just last month, the New York State’s highest court said that the U.S. Constitution guarantees jury trials to non-citizens charged with crimes that could subject them to deportation. It is very likely that the case will go to the United States Supreme Court for final determination.

The Court of Appeals rejected an argument by Bronx county prosecutors that deportation is merely a civil consequence of criminal convictions, and the Sixth Amendment did not require jury trials for defendants charged with minor yet deportable crimes.

The court found that “It is now beyond cavil that the penalty of deportation is among the most extreme and that it may, in some circumstances, rival incarceration in its loss of liberty.”

The decision means non-citizens will be entitled to jury trials even if their alleged deportable crimes carry maximum prison terms of six months or less.

The risk for deportation of a non-U.S. citizen accused of a low-level crime is enough to guarantee that individual have a trial by jury rather than a bench trial.

The Bronx District Attorney said the decision addressed the “harsh realities” of possible deportation, but also threatened “serious backlogs and disparities in the administration of justice” in state courts and conflicted with Supreme Court precedents. She said she may appeal to that body.

The decision, over Sixth Amendment fair trial rights under the U.S. Constitution for persons facing deportation, was one of first impression for the Court of Appeals. It was brought before the court by Saylor Suazo, a non-citizen who was found guilty in a bench trial on various charges related to an alleged assault. He had over stayed his visa.

Because of the importance of the case and its consequences, the Bronx District Attorney said she was considering taking an appeal on the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court since it was decided on federal constitutional grounds.

The key issue in the case was the gradation of the criminal charge Suazo had been tried upon. The Criminal Law in New York allows a defendant to be denied a trial by jury in New York City if the maximum penalty of a charge is less than six months in jail. The same rule does not apply outside New York City.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about the new immigration policies. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with the filing of applications with USCIS. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

I represent individuals in immigration cases. If you have any questions or concerns about an immigration case or potential case, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Now with offices in Buffalo and Rochester!!! Please look for my next article in the January edition. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2019!