Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton issued a new policy for the DA’s Office focused on immigration. In order to comply with state and federal laws, the office has updated its immigration policy.
“It is important to have a standardized process in place to ensure we meet our obligations under the law. I am confident that with this new policy we can fairly review all options for a disposition while at the same time ensuring we meet the demands to protect the public and victims,” said DA Becton. “Moving forward, cases will be evaluated by our state legislative mandate to ‘consider the avoidance of adverse immigration consequences in the plea negotiation process as one factor in an effort to reach a just resolution.’”
Last July, for the first time ever, the entire DA’s office staff received an in-depth immigration training which focused on the role of prosecutors in considering adverse immigration consequences, i.e. deportation.
The law was changed in California in 2016 and now Penal Code Section 1016.3(b) mandates, “the prosecution … consider the avoidance of adverse immigration consequences in the plea negotiation process as one factor in an effort to reach a just resolution.”
The legislature enacted the law after finding “the immigration consequences of criminal convictions have a particularly strong impact in California. One out of every four persons living in the state is foreign-born. One out of every two children lives in a household headed by at least one foreign-born person. The majority of these children are United States citizens. It is estimated that 50,000 parents of California United States citizen children were deported in a little over two years. Once a person is deported, especially after a criminal conviction, it is extremely unlikely that he or she ever is permitted to return.” (Cal. Penal Code Section 1016.2(g)).
Following are aspects of Becton’s updated policy, under governing law, “consideration of immigration consequences during the plea negotiation process is mandatory” and “victim’s rights must also be included and considered in the plea negotiation process.”
The policy notes that “These internal guidelines are not intended to create any new procedural rights in favor of criminal defendants or to be enforceable in a court of law. Nor shall these guidelines be construed to create any presumptions that a previously sentenced defendant would have received any offer other than that which has already been extended and accepted.
The policy further states, “Prosecutors do not have an obligation to independently research or investigate the adverse immigration consequences that may result from a plea or criminal conviction.” But, they “shall consider adverse immigration consequences presented by the defense.”
In addition, the new policy requires that “the supervising prosecutor…determine based upon the totality of the circumstances if an appropriate disposition can be reached that neither jeopardizes public safety nor leads to disproportionate immigration consequences based on the information provided by the defense.”
According to the new policy, alternative considerations include, “Devising an alternative plea agreement that is factually honest and of a similar nature and consequence to the originally charged offense, but minimizes the defendant’s exposure to adverse immigration consequences;” and “Allowing language to be stricken from a charging document or plea colloquy while maintaining the truthfulness of the remaining charging language.”
Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the Contra Costa County District Attorney contributed to this report.