Governor Brown Signs Important Legislation for Non-citizens Currently Facing, or Previously Convicted of Drug Charges

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Starting on January 1, 2016, any non-citizen convicted of a drug crime who successfully completed “DEJ”  (deferred entry of judgment) will be able to request the court to reopen the case and dismiss it.   This is excellent news for any non-citizen who wishes to legalize in the United States who qualifies under this new law. 

Specifically, under United States immigration law, any drug conviction – even simple misdemeanor possession – is usually fatal to a non-citizen’s immigration status.  This includes the situation where the person is undocumented, here legally on a visa, a beneficiary of DACA, or even a permanent resident.   Drug crimes are deportable offenses, and the US government can strip an individual’s legal status here and commence deportation proceedings for those convicted of a drug offense.

In California, many simple possession cases are resolved through “DEJ” (deferred entry of judgment).  DEJ is a diversion program which allows the accused to participate in a drug treatment program.  Upon successful completion of the drug treatment program, the case is then dismissed.  This has always been a great option for US citizens charged with drug crimes.  However, for non citizens, DEJ posed a major problem.  This is because in order to participate in DEJ, the accused has to plead guilty to the charges, which in turn triggers immigration consequences with the federal government.    In sum, DEJ did not protect non-citizens from the harsh immigration consequences attendant to US immigration law.

The new law signed by Governor Brown fundamentally changes this.   The new law allows those who have successfully completed DEJ to withdraw (take back) their original guilty plea, and the case is automatically dismissed.  In effect, the law allows those who suffered a conviction to go back in time and have the case dismissed protecting them from the harsh immigration consequences.

It is extremely important to note that not all drug crimes DEJ eligible.   This law only  applies to those who successfully completed the DEJ program.  However, for those that do qualify, this new law can make all of the difference in the world.  In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that in many cases, this law can make the difference between irreversible deportation and legal status.  

If you or a loved one is not a citizen and has had a drug conviction that was resolved through DEJ, contact Martin Lijtmaer at martin@lijtlaw.com or 323 379 5458 for a free consultation on how he can help eliminate that conviction for immigration purposes. 

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