A criminal conviction can have a life changing and potentially devastating impact on anyone. However, under federal law, certain offenses are considered deportable, including controlled substance offenses, crimes of moral turpitude, and aggravated felonies. So, for noncitizens, a criminal conviction brings with it potentially very grave collateral immigration consequences. In many instances, the individuals who are convicted of qualifying offenses, have spent their entire adulthood in the United States, have build their lives and have families here, and have no other place they would call home. Yet, following a criminal conviction, noncitizens face the threat of ending up in immigration court to face a potential removal and deportation to a strange country and permanent separation from their families.
Fortunately, in light of the adverse immigration consequences noncitizens face, some district attorneys are starting to adjust their offices’ immigration-related policies, including the Los Angeles District Attorney, George Gascon. On December 6, 2022, Mr. Gascon issued a new special directive outlining the new immigration policies of the LA District Attorney’s Office, which, among other things, is aiming to address the overly punitive consequences accused noncitizens could face.
First, according to the new policy, prior to when a charging decision is made, any person who is under investigation or their attorney, can present information demonstrating the potential adverse immigration consequences that could follow. In such cases, all charging determinations by the DA office should be made with the goal of avoiding or mitigating any adverse consequences a charge could have, and if there are possible alternatives to charges being filed, the DA office should pursue those alternatives. In addition, the new policy encourages prosecutors to expand the use of pretrial diversion programs that do not require an admission of guilt.