There are more immigrants in California than in any other state, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. This comes out to more than 10 million immigrants in this state alone, meaning that one in four of the nation’s population that was born outside of the U.S. resides in California. While these numbers primarily refer to people who are living legally in the country, it is no secret that California is also home to thousands of immigrants who are illegal, who have not received permanent residency status or a green card. While this makes the state one of the most diverse, it can also mean it is one of the most divided when it comes to policy and policing. One of the most recent of these rulings to be considered by state legislators is one that would allow illegal immigrants to plead guilty to minor drug charges without fear of deportation that such an act would usually trigger.

Minor drug charges are often dismissed if a person pleads guilty and undergoes drug counseling. If, however, the charge is brought against a person living illegally in the country, such proceedings could trigger deportation. The new bill currently being debated by state officials would allow illegal immigrants to plead guilty to such charges and undergo counseling, without fear of deportation.

In 2013, fewer than 3 percent of federal criminal charges went to trial, in large part due to the acceptance of plea bargains. While plea bargains proved to largely be a good option for minor drug charges, there were unexpected consequences to their rise in popularity: the so-called “Rockefeller Laws” implemented in New York were one such example, in which punishments for minor drug infractions increased sharply to combat the rise of plea bargains.

The new proposed law in California would not likely lead to these kinds of developments, however. The new proposal would allow people charged with minor drug crimes to opt for treatment before even entering a plea bargain. If the course is completed, the accused would not have to enter a guilty plea at all. If the person fails the course, he or she would no choice but to face criminal proceedings.

If you have questions about this new proposal or any other aspect of California drug law, the most important step is to seek legal counsel. Do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced San Jose criminal defense attorney today.

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