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Can a drug conviction affect my immigration status?

If there's one thing that most of us know about being arrested for any crime, it's that there are stiff consequences associated with being convicted of one. This is one of the reasons why drug crime defendants often take their cases to trial. They do so to give themselves a chance of defending themselves against the charges that have been waged against them. They realize that they may not only face prison time and fines if they're convicted but may jeopardize their immigration status as well.

Any defendant that is convicted of possessing, selling, manufacturing or trafficking of any controlled substance may put oneself at risk of being deported. Offenses of this sort are referred to as Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT). The only drug charge that may not put your immigration status on the line is if you're convicted of a single charge involving up to 30 grams (g) or marijuana.

A single CIMT on your record will likely result in a prison sentence of longer than a year. If you're incarcerated and not yet a citizen, then you may be deported and prohibited from returning here to California or any other state for as long as five years. In this case, it may not matter if you've already established yourself as a refugee, green card holder or lawful permanent resident (LPR) here in this country. You may easily lose that status.

If you're lucky enough to have attained LPR status at the time of your conviction and you aren't deported after you serve your time in prison, then you may find it hard to obtain U.S. citizenship if that's what you're aiming for. A drug crime conviction may send a message to an immigration judge that you're not of good moral character. This could bar you from seeking citizenship for five years post-conviction. Certain aggravated offenses could bar you from becoming a U.S. citizen for life.

It's never a good time to be charged with or convicted of a drug crime. This is by far one of the worst things that can happen when your immigration status is in limbo. An attorney here in Tulare can help you identify some defense strategies that you may be able to pursue in your California case that will give you the best chance of maintaining your immigration status here in this country.

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