The BIA has held that that it will not give retroactive effect to California Penal Code § 18.5(a) on convictions from before January 1, 2015. It will consider a California misdemeanor conviction from before January 1, 2015 to have a potential sentence of up to one year, while a misdemeanor conviction on or after that date will have a potential sentence of up to 364 days. Having a potential sentence of just 364 days can help some immigrants who are convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. (Note that this decision does not affect how immigration treats a sentence that actually was imposed. It only concerns the maximum possible sentence.) Advocates will appeal this decision.
This Advisory provides an analysis of Velasquez-Rios and suggests defense strategies for immigration advocates and criminal defenders.