The Practice

Criminal Practice

Best Efforts for Best Results

Being charged criminally is often a life-altering experience for the accused and their loved ones. The stakes are high and can include years of incarceration, loss of professional licenses and career, reputational damage, and deportation from the country. For this reason, we take the time necessary to understand a client’s unique situation, background, and the facts and law of each case. We maintain open lines of communication with clients in determining the best course of action and pride ourselves on our accessibility. Every decision is based on a legal strategy developed to meet the client’s goals. Care is taken to ensure a client’s rights are protected and interests are furthered to obtain the best possible outcome.

Broad Experience

The United States is notorious for its incarceration rates. Nearly anyone can become entangled in the criminal justice system. Our experience includes representing a diverse range of clients from artists and students to attorneys, doctors, pharmacists, and CEOs. Cases that Carla has worked on in federal court include racketeering, bank fraud, honest services fraud, securities fraud, Medicare fraud, narcotics trafficking and importation, firearm possession, money laundering, witness tampering, kidnapping, Hobbs Act Robbery, and others. State cases include enterprise corruption, criminal sale of a prescription by a health care provider, narcotics offenses, credit card offenses, larcenies, sex offenses, assault, DWI, burglary, and drug crimes, among others. Carla represents witnesses, suspects, and targets in grand jury investigations, handles post-conviction petitions including appeal, ineffective assistance of counsel motions, habeas corpus petitions, and motions to vacate convictions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and CPL 440.10.

Understanding the System

Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is far from perfect. It is often said that a more accurate term is the “Criminal Injustice System.” There are overzealous prosecutors, biased judges, and draconian sentencing laws in place. For those facing serious charges, the law often includes a mandatory minimum sentence that shifts bargaining power to the government. For example, if a defendant wants to accept a guilty plea but the crime charged has a mandatory minimum number of years of incarceration, it will be the prosecutor and not the judge who will determine the minimum amount of incarceration. This scheme places undue pressure on defendants to take a plea and forgo their right to trial. This pressure impacts both the guilty and the innocent and is why approximately 97% of federal cases result in a guilty plea.
Working within this system, we provide thoughtful and aggressive advocacy that aims to capitalize on the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case to obtain the best outcome for the defendant. We advocate for the lowest possible sentence and alternatives to incarceration and fight for the protection of our clients’ rights and human dignity.

Civil Practice


Immigration services include petitions for permanent residency, including marriage-based petitions, naturalization, and asylum, and select other matters. We are particularly versed in “crimmigration” and the ways that arrests and criminal conviction can impact immigration status. For particularly complex matters, the Firm teams up with immigration experts to ensure our clients receive the best advice in dealing with immigration authorities, including ICE, USCIS, CBP, and the DOJ.


Employees may find themselves in a variety of situations requiring an attorney. For example, we have represented employees who have been wrongfully accused of wrongdoing and suspended, as well as those who have suffered workplace discrimination. Fortunately, there are federal and local laws in place to protect employees from unlawful discrimination and ensure payment of minimum wage and overtime.
An employer cannot discriminate based on a protected ground. New York City defines protected grounds as: Alienage or citizenship status, Color, Disability, Gender (including sexual harassment), Gender Identity, Marital status and partnership status, National origin, Pregnancy and Lactation Accommodations, Race, Religion/Creed, Sexual orientation, Status as a Veteran or Active Military Service Member.
If you feel you have been discriminated against in the workplace or have not received your full salary under your employment contract, you may be protected. We have experience representing clients in mediations and court, negotiating settlements on behalf of employees, and drafting settlement contracts.
There are time limits for bringing employment claims, so it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Other Civil

We represent clients in constitutional tort claims against the City of New York. These claims include false arrest, Fourth Amendment unlawful search violations, excessive force, and malicious prosecution. There are time limits for these claims, so an attorney must be contacted as soon as possible.
Our civil litigation experience includes civil forfeiture claims, administrative proceedings, and more.

LGBT Clients

We have extensive experience representing sexual and gender minorities in an array of matters. Many of our LGBT clients are immigrants who are petitioning for permanent residency through a same sex marriage or seeking asylum from a country where they would be in danger due to their sexual orientation or transgender status. Other LGBT clients are victims of harassment or discrimination at work or are accused of domestic violence. We also handle name changes and gender marker changes for transgender clients and other civil matters.
Our society’s systems are hetero and cis normative. As a result, immigration officials, law enforcement, and even judges may exhibit trans or homo negativity and macroaggressions towards our clients. As a firm, we are sensitive to the challenges that our transgender and LGBQ clients face in navigating these systems and tirelessly fight for the equal rights of our clients.
On occasion we will assist clients on a pro bono basis. Our past pro bono LGBT work includes representing an HIV+ refugee from Central America who was fleeing persecution for his sexuality. The case required hundreds of hours of work, including research of country conditions for LGBT people and HIV+ people, significant client preparation in Spanish, and drafting legal arguments to support the claims. We are delighted that the hard work paid off and our client won asylum in the United States.

Carla Sanderson Law has been certified as a Women and Minority-Owned Business Enterprise and LGBT Business Enterprise.