Recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1310 into law which changes the maximum confinement time for any California misdemeanor offense from 365 in county jail to 364 days to county jail. The law goes into effect January 1, 2015.
To figure out why the California legislature and the governor take time to pass a law which literally takes 1 second off of a maximum jail sentence, you need to understand a thing or two about immigration law.
Misdemeanors, although far more frequently filed and far less serious than felonies, can carry serious consequences for people who reside in the United States but are not US citizens. Federal immigration laws consider any crime punishable by at least 365 days in jail as a felony, whether or not a state law considers it a misdemeanor. This created a serious issue for many non-citizens living in California who found themselves facing removal proceedings or risked not being able to re-enter the United States due to relatively minor criminal offenses. According to the American Immigration Council (and as reported by the Los Angeles Times):
“Each year, 10% of all deportees are legal permanent residents, and 68% of them are sent out of the country for minor, nonviolent crimes.”
This law encourages people to deal with their cases, appear in court, with less fear of immigration consequences.
With that said, the length of a maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is not the only factor in determining whether there are adverse immigration consequences. Another issue which must be considered is whether the charged offense is a “crime involving moral turpitituede.” There are some misdemeanors which could trigger removal proceedings even if the defendant is sentence to no jail time. Offenses such as petty theft, grand theft, domestic violence, drug possession, or a DUI related to drugs are examples of common misdemeanors which are crimes involving moral turpitude.
So while this new law lowering the maximum sentence time is certainly helpful for immigration, it is important to find a criminal defense attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable in immigration or who consults with a qualified immigration attorney.
Bottom line: If you or a loved one are accused of a misdemeanor or any crime in California, and you have concerns about immigration consequences, contact The Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg for a free consultation. You can call (323) 633-3423 or use this confidential contact form.