Drug Violations Law

Can I Be Deported for a Drug Violation?

Key Takeaways:

  • Non-citizens can be deported for drug crimes in the U.S.
  • Drug trafficking can be a deportable offense; simple possession may not be.
  • Some drug crime convictions can be waived to avoid deportation.

People who are not United States citizens may be at risk of being deported or removed from the country if they violate the terms of legal entry. This includes possible deportation if they have been convicted of a crime, even if they are in the United States lawfully with a valid visa or green card. People who have been convicted on drug charges can face the possibility of deportation.

Drug crimes are generally prosecuted under state law, but U.S. immigration falls under federal law. When facing possible deportation for a drug crime, you should talk to a local criminal defense lawyer who understands how a drug conviction can affect your immigration status.

Contact a criminal defense attorney in your area for legal advice about your case.

Drug Crimes and Grounds for Deportation

Criminal convictions are a common reason for non-citizens or permanent residents to be deported. However, drug laws are not the same in every state. Finding out if a drug crime will lead to deportation involves three questions:

  • Was the offense a crime of moral turpitude?
  • Is the drug crime considered an aggravated felony?
  • Is the drug crime charged listed separately in the list of grounds for deportation?

Is a Drug Crime a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

Under immigration law, someone can be deported for conviction of “a crime of moral turpitude.” The Board of Immigration Appeals‘ definition of moral turpitude can be vague and unclear. A person who commits a crime of moral turpitude must have been found to have exercised malicious intent or acted recklessly at the time that the crime was committed.

These definitions are very subjective, and determining the moral intent is left to interpretation. However, federal courts have listed some specific offenses to be crimes of moral turpitude, including:

However, these are not the only crimes of moral turpitude. In some cases, a criminal conviction for drug trafficking has been considered a crime of moral turpitude. Simple possession of a controlled substance for personal use or drug use is generally not considered a crime of moral turpitude.

A lawful permanent resident can be deported if they:

  • Committed one crime of moral turpitude within their first five years in the United States and received a prison sentence of at least one year; or
  • Committed two or more crimes of moral turpitude not arising from a single scheme.

Can a Drug Crime Be an Aggravated Felony?

Receiving one conviction for an aggravated felony is automatically a reason for deportation. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), immigration law specifies its own definition of aggravated felonies. Drug offenses classified as aggravated felonies include “illicit trafficking in a controlled substance.”

Are Drug Crimes Listed as Grounds for Deportability?

Federal immigration laws specifically include drug crime convictions as possible grounds for deportation. However, there is an exception for a single offense that includes the possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana for personal use. People convicted of simple drug possession of small amounts of marijuana are generally not automatically deportable.

Can I Apply for a Deportation Waiver?

People facing deportation can apply for a waiver for grounds of inadmissibility. A waiver of inadmissibility is a request for the applicant to remain in the United States as long as they do not commit any further criminal acts. In recent years, the government has limited the use of this admissibility waiver for most drug crimes.

Use USCIS Form I-601 to apply for a waiver of grounds of inadmissibility. If your application is denied, you may still be able to appeal the decision before an immigration judge in the immigration court.

A Lawyer Can Help with Immigration Consequences

People who are legally in the United States can have a lawyer if they are charged with a controlled substance offense. A criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid a criminal conviction or plead down your charges to a misdemeanor or lesser offense. An immigration attorney can help if the individual faces removal proceedings or deportation.

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