With election season in full swing, the issue of immigration and drug crimes has become front and center in American discourse. The debate surrounding immigration issues and drug crimes are not only for presidential candidates, however. In early September, California state legislature passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee two law proposals that would bridge the gap between California state law and federal law. In short, the bills assert that the state should allow immigrants charged with drug possession the same opportunities provided U.S. citizens — that they should be equally entitled to drug treatment programs rather than prison and eventual deportation.
California already has a program enacted that sets it apart when considering treatment of immigrants charged with drug crimes. This is known as Deferred Entry of Judgment, and it allows for any person charged with drug crimes to plead guilty, enter the program, and subsequently have the charges dismissed and his or her legal record wiped clean. Because, however, people must first plead guilty to qualify for this program, federal law could trigger deportation for these people—even if they are documented immigrants but not full citizens (green card residents).
These laws attempt to mitigate risk of deportation for immigrants charged with drug crimes. In recent years, deportation of non-citizens (even documented) has increased 43 percent between 2007 and 2012. This holds true for people charged with drug crimes who have no prior record, and for those who were charged with the crime sometimes decades in the past. Even if a person’s charge ultimately resulted in no prison time, he is still at risk for deportation.
If you or someone you know has questions about drug charges — whatever the status of your citizenship — the most important step is to seek legal counsel. Do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced Santa Clara County criminal defense attorney today.