In Riverside and Orange counties in California, a person who has been charged with possession of an illegal substance can plead guilty and participate in a drug rehabilitation program. After successful completion, the criminal charge is dismissed. According to the LA Times, although the state drops the charge against an immigrant just as it does for citizens, U.S. Immigration law does not, so a guilty plea could result in deportation, regardless of legal status. A California lawmaker is attempting to change that by authoring Assembly Bill 1351.
According to the proposed bill, an immigrant would qualify for deferred charges under the following conditions:
- Probation or parole has never been revoked without completion.
- There is no felony conviction within the previous five years of the current offense.
- The immigrant does not have a conviction for an offenseinvolving the illegal use prescription drugs, including narcotics or other dangerous substances.
- The current offense does not involve violence.
In addition, there must be no indication on the person’s record that a diversion or deferred entry of judgment has been granted.
If a person meets these qualifications, he or she would not enter a guilty plea. Instead, the court would suspend proceedings until a drug treatment program is successfully completed. The criminal proceedings would continue if the immigrant does not finish the program satisfactorily. However, someone who does complete a program would have the criminal charges dropped. This would effectively prevent federal officials from being notified of a drug conviction, so there would be no threat of deportation.