Consequences Of Drug Charges For Immigrants


Drug charges carry serious consequences, no matter who you are. If you are an immigrant, drug charges can have even more dire effects, potentially resulting in deportation or the revocation of papers or work permits. This is true even if you are a permanent legal resident, depending on the severity of the charge. If you are charged with a trafficking aggravated felony or an offense involving a controlled substance, for example, you may be subject to deportation.

Risk of Deportation

In general, however, if you are not a legal permanent resident, you can potentially be deported regardless of the severity of the drug charge. Any type of drug charge—or other criminal behavior—can be considered grounds for deportation and the revocation of immigration status and papers. For example, if you are convicted of any type of an offense of a federally-scheduled drug; if you are convicted of a possession-only charge; if you are convicted of possession with intent to sell; or if you are convicted of the sale or distribution of a drug; you are eligible for deportation, regardless of your legal immigration status.

Possible Exceptions

There are some exceptions to this general rule, however. If, for example, you are caught with 30 grams or less of marijuana, not considered a serious charge in California, you may not be deported; if you are caught for a second time with the same amount of the substance, you may be eligible for deportation. This charge will instead be handled as a simple possession charge or a personal use charge. The same rule applies to a paraphernalia conviction—if you are convicted of the possession of paraphernalia considered a controlled substance offense, you may be deported. If you are convicted of a single paraphernalia possession related to the simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, this falls under an exception to deportability.

In 2015, in an attempt to lessen the blow of these strict laws for California’s large legal and illegal immigrant population, the state government considered a bill that would shield immigrants who plead guilty and underwent drug counseling from the deportation that this type of conviction can usually trigger. California differs from federal law in that it offers the ability to clear one’s record of minor drug charges if the accused undergoes drug counseling.

Seek Legal Assistance

Regardless of your immigration status, if you or someone you know has been charged with a drug crime in California, the most important step is to seek legal counsel. Only with the assistance of a legal professional are you able to truly understand all your options. Do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced San Jose criminal defense attorney today.


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