In an article published this month in the San Diego Criminal Defense Blog, Stefano L. Molea, a San Diego criminal defense lawyer and partner at the Law Office of David P. Shapiro, provides useful information regarding the consequences of low-level drug crimes for immigrants in California. The article focuses on AB 208 which was signed into law late last year. Under prior law, those who qualified for pretrial diversion were required to enter a guilty plea and then complete a drug program. If successful, the case would be dismissed without any conviction. But if the defendant was involved in an immigration proceeding, officials would consider the guilty plea and use it as a basis to take action against their status. Under pre-existing law, this immigration consequence would be an issue even when the defendant had successfully completed the pretrial diversion program.
Together with Penal Code 1203.43 the new laws benefit immigrants in two ways: first, diversion would involve the entry of a plea of not guilty at the outset of the case; and second, a guilty plea previously entered as part of a pretrial diversion case can be rendered invalid with the proper motion. The upshot of AB 208 is that noncitizen defendants eligible for pretrial intervention are now permitted to take advantage of the program without the threat of negative immigration consequences looming over them.