Should You Always Buy in Bulk?

Okay, for the record it was fake news that Costco started to sell marijuana in bulk. See here:

Having said this, recently an attorney colleague asked me the following question:

Hey Satveer,

I have a client who is Laotian and came to the US when he was 9 or 10 years old. He’s charged with possessing 5 pounds of marijuana – Felony Fifth Degree Possession of a Controlled Substance. He qualifies for a Minn Stat. 152.18 diversion, but will that disposition still affect his ability to become a citizen eventually? I don’t want to enter a plea to this if it means he will either be subject to deportation, or he will not be able to become a citizen. Do you know the ramifications of this off the top of your head?


A drug diversion program under Minnesota Statute 152.18 is usually an ideal disposition for first-time drug offenders. It’s an opportunity to realize one’s mistake and not let it follow you the rest of your life.

However, noncitizens are affected differently by diversion programs, and such dispositions must be handled delicately. Even though an attorney might think diversion is the ideal solution, the mechanics of a diversion program disposition can still impact their client’s immigration status including deportation.

The three biggest concerns with a 152.18 diversion are, first, admission of the facts, second, entry into the probationary “system” and, third, whether the diversion is under order of a court. Any of these can sink a noncitizen, especially entering a plea to possession of a large amount like the above client. Plus, any criminal background and their particular immigration status as a noncitizen also comes into play.

Things are pretty dicey for noncitizens these days, and it’s hard to provide accurate advice off-the-cuff since each noncitizen can be affected differently by the same disposition.

I’m always willing to assist my attorney colleagues in making sure noncitizens are not impacted in a greater way than citizens for the same offense.

I can’t tell you the amount of times my attorney colleagues have been surprised with the advice I gave them and were thankful that an “obviously beneficial” plea agreement did not actually end up worse for their client.

Even eight years after Padilla v. Kentucky, defense attorneys are not taking the importance of proper immigration advice seriously. Many still think immigration is a side issue, not understanding that noncitizens don’t benefit from a plea if it means immigration problems. It makes sense, because what difference does some jail, or no jail, mean if you’re going to be deported! To my attorney colleagues I encourage them to read Padilla versus Kentucky in its entirety. I’m not making this up!

Given the climate against immigrants these days, it is best for an attorney to acquire an opinion letter from a qualified immigration attorney before moving ahead with any disposition for their noncitizen clients.


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