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Law change for misdemeanor crimes big news for immigrants

For generations, people have immigrated to the United States with the hope of starting a better life. But while immigration is often seen as a good thing, it does not come without its difficulties. As some of our San Diego readers may know, immigrants must be scrupulous when it comes to obeying the law because even the smallest of infractions can sometimes lead to deportation.

Few people realize how often criminal defense and immigration law cross paths. Even fewer still realize the challenges defense attorneys face when handling these sensitive cases. But a new law signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown may reduce some of these challenges. That’s because the law reduces the maximum penalty on misdemeanor crimes, which is expected to also reduce the risk of deportation as well.

As you may not know, even a misdemeanor with a sentence of one year or more can lead to deportation under current federal law. But with the introduction of SB1310, which will reduce sentences for misdemeanor crimes to one year or less, California’s definition of a misdemeanor crime will no longer match the federal definition. Those who backed the law believe that it could save thousands of legal immigrants from having to go through the deportation process for minor crimes -- a process that affects not only the person who is being deported but their family as well.

It’s important to note though that even though the law has been signed, it does not go into effect until January 1, meaning convictions for misdemeanor crimes under current law could still result in deportation. It’s unclear if the law will be applied retroactively to those who are deported for misdemeanor crimes during the time when the law was signed and when it goes into effect next year.

Source: The Modesto Bee, “California reduces deportations for minor crimes,” Don Thompson, July 21, 2014

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results