CALIFORNIA: California Gov. Jerry Brown acted on two life-changing companion bills, approving one, but vetoing the other. Brown signed A.B. 1352 which allows those who have completed court ordered drug diversion since 1997 to file with the court to convert their plea to a “not guilty.” Before 1997, there was a pre-plea diversion option in California. The relief applies only to those who have completed diversion, which has already resulted in clearing the arrest and conviction from their record. The change is urgently needed, because the guilty plea triggers federal consequences, including deportation for non-citizens, or loss of housing and educational grants for citizens. These cruel consequences exist even for very old cases against legal immigrants or parents or spouses of US citizens.
The prospective companion bill, A.B. 1351 vetoed by Gov. Brown, would have allowed judges the discretion to order diversion to drug treatment or education without the precondition of a guilty plea. California currently lacks a pre-plea option, and the admission of guilt is considered a conviction for federal immigration purposes. The consequences can be immediate and devastating, including deportation, mandatory detention, and permanent separation of families.
The bills were authored by Stockton Democrat Susan Talamantes-Eggman and were considered priorities by the California Legislative Latino Caucus and several immigrant and human rights groups, working in conjunction with drug policy and criminal justice reformers.