Post-Conviction Relief

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Post-Conviction Relief
Criminal Convictions can have serious consequences on peoples’ lives – especially non-citizens who wish to stay in the United States. Many immigration benefits have criminal bars, meaning that certain convictions will prevent you from getting a lawful immigration status, like permanent residence (green card). This Community Explainer offers some options for those who have had certain convictions related to domestic violence or human trafficking, with insights about how to define these crimes, some example scenarios, and explanations about the benefits of a legal tool called a “vacatur.”
Immigration and crimes, or “crim-imm,” can be challenging.  Both immigration and criminal law are difficult on their own. To do crim-imm work, advocates who are expert in one area must learn at least something about law and procedure in the other. It can be hard to know where to start the analysis.
This advisory provides a step-by-step approach to help advocates analyze a case and identify goals. It can be used by criminal defense counsel, immigration advocates, and post-conviction relief counsel. It is not a substitute for consulting with a crim/imm expert, but using it should increase your expertise and help you to better discuss the analysis with the client, argue it to the judge or official, or negotiate with the other side.
Cannabis legalization has long been a growing theme across the United States, having a place in virtually every recent election cycle and in policy debates related to the federal government’s role in restricting its access, sale, use, and distribution. With many states moving to legalize cannabis for recreational use and with the Biden administration recently deciding to pardon individuals for certain federal convictions related to its possession, it may seem as though we are coming to the end of the cannabis prohibition era. Unfortunately, not only is that moment yet to arrive, but the dangers for immigrants, in particular, could not be higher. This downloadable guide walks through the current intersection of cannabis, criminal, and immigration law and also shares insights about what a pathway out of prohibition could look like.
his fact sheet describes new Cal. Penal Code 372.5 (AB 2195). As of January 1, 2023, a California defendant who is charged with any of several drug offenses, from infractions to felonies, can ask for the drug charge/s to be dismissed and instead to plead guilty to being a “public nuisance” (Penal Code § 370). Section 372.5 provides that in this circumstance, the public nuisance offense is punishable as an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a “wobbler” offense, depending on the offense level of the drug charge that was dropped. The defense must decide to ask, and the prosecution must agree, to go forward with Penal Code 370/372.5.
Survivors of human trafficking and of domestic or sexual violence often are charged and convicted of offenses that arose as a direct result of their exploitation. For noncitizens, the criminal record can cause deportation or destroy their eligibility for humanitarian visas. In the last five years, California has enacted multiple laws to avoid this injustice in criminal court, including a defense to a criminal charge and a vehicle to vacate a past conviction for survivors who were coerced to commit the offense, or in other cases mitigation of sentence. This advisory describes the new criminal laws and their immigration effect, so that criminal defenders and immigration and survivor advocates are aware of these options.
Drug offenses cause the harshest, most disproportionate immigration penalties of any offense. Criminal defenders and immigration advocates need information to work aggressively to defend immigrant clients. This advisory provides strategies to avoid a drug conviction, including how and when to use Penal Code § 372.5 (2023), along with practice tips, resources, and arguments to support negotiating for an immigration neutral plea or disposition in criminal court.