Can someone be deported for marijuana crimes?
If you face drug charges, such as a marijuana offense, and you are not a United States citizen, you will want a criminal defense attorney who has experience with the marijuana “Personal Use” Exception for avoiding immigration consequences.
Federal Immigration Consequences for Marijuana Crimes
Representing a person who is not a United States Citizen on a controlled substance offense presents unique and complex challenges for a Michigan criminal defense attorney. Unfortunately, there are dire consequences to a controlled substance conviction for an alien living in the United States, and most criminal defense lawyers have no idea how to protect clients in this situation. The criminal defense attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have vast experience successfully representing and protecting clients living in the United States on a visa or green card from deportation. To ensure your lawyer is appropriately protecting and defending you, it is essential that you have at least a basic understanding of the Marijuana “Personal Use” Exception.
Basic Criminal and Immigration Law Terms
To better understand this blog regarding the Marijuana “Personal Use” Exception under U.S. Immigration Law, it is important to understand some basic terms:
- Alien – An Alien is a person in the United States who is not a citizen of the United States and who has not acquired citizenship by naturalization.
- LPR – A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) is an alien who has been granted the right by the USCIS to reside permanently in the United States and to work without restrictions.
- Green Card – All immigrants are eventually issued a “green card” (USCIS Form I-551), which is the evidence of the alien’s LPR status.
- Nonimmigrant – A nonimmigrant is an alien who has been granted the right by the USCIS to reside temporarily in the United States.
- Nonimmigrant Visas – A nonimmigrant visa allows a nonimmigrant to enter the United States in one of several different categories, which correspond to the purpose for which the nonimmigrant is being admitted to the United States.
- Immigrant Visas – An immigrant visa is a document issued by the United States that allows a person to travel to the United States and apply for admission as a legal permanent resident (LPR)
The Law – Marijuana “Personal Use” Exception
Any alien who has been convicted of a violation of a controlled substance offense at any time after admission is deportable. The sole exception to that rule is that an alien convicted of a single offense involving personal possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana is not deportable according to 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i).
Not So Fast! The Law is More Complex Than It May Seem
Even though the Marijuana “Personal Use” Exception exists, the exception is not always automatically applied. The marijuana personal use exception is commonly misunderstood, and immigration courts have found many ways to find an alien deportable even though their only conviction involved personal use of marijuana under 30 grams. For example, in Flores Esquivel v. Lynch (5th Cir. Oct. 1, 2015), the immigration court found that such an offense disqualified a non-citizen from cancellation of the removal process because his offense included an additional element of being within 10,000 feet of a school. The 5th Circuit reversed and found does it not include an additional requirement that the offense also is the “least serious” drug offense under the law of the state in which it was committed.
The vast majority of criminal defense attorneys are unaware that even though a defendant may qualify for the Marijuana “Personal Use” Exception, they may still be deportable if it is determined that the person is a “drug abuser” or an “addict.” A presentence report in a misdemeanor case may prove critical in a deportation proceeding if such a finding is made.
Michigan Has Legalized Personal Use Quantities of Recreational Marijuana
In Michigan, a conviction for possession of recreational marijuana is legal. However, law enforcement is still bringing charges for Possession with Intent to Deliver and the possession of significant quantities of marijuana. Deportation proceedings can be mistakenly commenced upon a misdemeanor conviction for marijuana in Michigan. If the lawyer cannot convince the judge and prosecutor to reduce charges and include particular, necessary language in the Judgement of Sentence, the defendant may face deportation proceedings that could have been avoided.
There is more, much more. A case that may seem simple often is considerably more complex than an inexperienced criminal defense lawyer may understand. This is why it is crucial to have the best, most experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney – We Can Help You
The criminal defense attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience defending citizens and non-citizens of the United States on felony and misdemeanor charges throughout Michigan and in federal court. When the stakes are high and there is no room for errors and false promises, it is time to call us for a free consultation.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.