Open 24/7 SD: 619-814-5110 | OC: 949-681-7020 | Vista: 760-814-6025

  • Contact

    What Are the Effects of a Drug Conviction for Non-U.S. Citizens?

    Posted on: August 2nd, 2023 by

    Drug Conviction | Dod Law | Best Criminal Defense LawyerDrug Conviction for Non-U.S. Citizens

    People who are convicted of drug crimes in the U.S. face potentially serious consequences, including potential incarceration and fines. When the drug conviction involves a non-U.S. citizen, these effects can be even more serious, including the risk of removal from the country, the inability to re-enter, and even the inability to become a citizen.  Learn more about drug conviction for Non-U.S. Citizens.

    If you’ve been charged with a drug crime as a non-U.S. citizen, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer can provide services aimed at reducing these repercussions and work hard to help you to avoid a lengthy period of incarceration or removal from the country.


    While deportation from the U.S. is possible with most types of drug convictions, there are certain types of charges for which removal is mandatory upon conviction. This includes conviction of charges that are considered aggravated felonies, such as the use of a weapon during the commission of the crime, illicit drug trafficking, or possession of a large quantity of drugs that are federally prohibited.

    It is important to understand that even when a drug charge is considered a misdemeanor in accordance with state law, it can be considered an aggravated felony on a federal level and still impact the accused’s ability to remain in or return to the country.

    Additionally, a non-U.S. citizen can face removal proceedings if they have had more than one conviction of a drug charge that carries aggregate sentences of more than five years. Non-citizens who are found to have committed a crime of “moral turpitude” can also be deported. Crimes of moral turpitude can include the sale of federally scheduled drugs or possession with the intent to sell drugs.


    While a non-citizen can technically face removal for drug use, drug addiction, or possession of drugs for personal use, many are permitted to stay in the country provided that they:

    • Agree to undergo substance use disorder treatment
    • Did not possess the date-rape drug Rohypnol
    • Have not been convicted of a crime

    However, individuals who plead guilty or no contest to a drug crime face a risk of removal upon conviction.

    In the past, agreeing to a drug diversion program and avoiding being charged with other crimes was enough in California to avoid removal. However, the law has changed in recent years, making it harder for individuals to get their convictions expunged. Expunging or pardoning drug convictions is generally reserved only for cases in which there was a procedural error that occurred during the criminal process or the accused’s Constitutional Rights were violated.

    It is important for non-citizens who have been accused of a drug crime to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the rules governing immigration before agreeing to any plea deal. An attorney can help the accused understand the impact that a guilty plea will have on their ability to remain in the country and can ensure that their rights are protected through the criminal process.


    Even if a drug crime is considered a misdemeanor in state court, it can be considered an aggravated felony for immigration purposes. Individuals who find themselves facing a drug conviction as a non-citizen are urged to seek guidance from a criminal defense attorney with experience in immigration law. The legal team at Dod Law, APC understands that there is more at stake than a criminal record if you’re not a U.S. citizen and you’ve been accused of a drug crime.

    For more than 19 years, Dod Law, APC has been helping those who have been accused of a crime protect their rights and ensure that their side of the story is told. We believe our clients deserve significant time and attention in order to protect their futures. Let us answer the legal questions you have about your case and explore your legal options with you. Contact us at (619) 814-5110 or send us a message online for a free case evaluation.


    At a Glance

    Meet Attorney Dod Ghassemkhani

    • Recent Case Results
    • San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association | Named San Diego County’s 2023 Trial Lawyer Of The Year
    • Award Winning Criminal Defense Attorney
    • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers
    • Over 20 years of criminal defense experience
    • 10.0 “Superb” Avvo Rating