On July 29th
, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York signed several laws that decriminalize marijuana in the state of New York, and which allow those previously convicted of certain marijuana-related crimes to seek post-conviction relief (PCR) from the court. While this has far reaching consequences for every New Yorker, it is especially important for non-citizens whose status can be endangered by a criminal conviction. Here are some of the things you need to know about these new laws.
First, possession of marijuana has been decriminalized, which means that it is no longer a crime to simply possess marijuana of up to a quantity of one ounce. Instead, it is considered a violation, like a parking ticket, with no jail time and a maximum fine of $50. Additionally, publicly smoking marijuana has also been reduced to a non-criminal violation, with a maximum fine of $200. This does not mean, however, that a non-citizen will not suffer any immigration consequences for being found with up to an ounce of marijuana, or for holding or smoking marijuana in public. There are still significant immigration consequences for marijuana violations including in some circumstances deportation, being denied admission to the U.S., being denied permanent residency or a green card, or being denied naturalization.
Second, those who have already been convicted of possessing marijuana of up to one ounce, or for publicly using marijuana, can seek relief to have those convictions expunged or vacated. In both cases, the convictions will be effectively removed from your criminal record; however, an expunged conviction can still be the basis for negative immigration consequences, including deportation and removal. On the other hand, a vacated conviction cannot, and thus a legal immigrant previously convicted on marijuana charges should, if possible, seek vacatur of their previous charges to protect their immigration status.
Dealing with any matter related to your immigration status can be difficult, which is why you need the guidance of an experienced attorney to counsel you through the process. If you are facing a challenge to your legal status due to a previous marijuana conviction, or are having trouble with any other immigration issue, please call the attorneys at Bretz & Coven LLP. We will help you through the process of vacating your previous charges, protecting your rights and giving you the best chance possible at maintaining your legal residency. To schedule a consultation with our New York immigration lawyers, call (212) 267-2555
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