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Introduction – Often in the criminal justice system there are collateral consequences to plea agreements that – at the time of the entry into the plea agreement – are never made known to the Defendant. Federal consequences to pleas in Colorado State drug cases are among those consequences – this brief article explains the impact of a state drug conviction on the right to utilize a precious right – the right to travel outside the United States.
A person convicted of a felony drug offense (criminal offense punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year) and some misdemeanor drug offenses (not including first offenses and offenses involving only possession) will have his or her passport revoked if the person used a passport or otherwise crossed an international border in committing the offense.
The ineligibility period continues while the person is incarcerated or is on parole or other supervised release. 22 U.S.C. 2714. The disqualification may also be applied on a case-by-case basis to misdemeanor drug offenses. There exists an exception for emergency circumstances or humanitarian reasons.
Despite the nearly routine decision to plea bargain in criminal cases, defense attorneys must remain vigilant in ensuring that clients fully appreciate the sweeping consequences that flow from a guilty plea, particularly to a felony.
Here is the FULL TEXT of the Federal Law:
22 USC § 2714 – Denial of passports to certain convicted drug traffickers
a) Ineligibility for passport
(1) In general a passport may not be issued to an individual who is convicted of an offense described in subsection (b) of this section during the period described in subsection (c) of this section if the individual used a passport or otherwise crossed an international border in committing the offense.
(2) Passport revocation
The Secretary of State shall revoke a passport previously issued to an individual who is ineligible to receive a passport under paragraph (1).
(b) Drug law offenses
Subsection (a) of this section applies with respect to any individual convicted of a Federal drug offense, or a State drug offense, if the offense is a felony.
(2) Certain misdemeanors
Subsection (a) of this section also applies with respect to an individual convicted of a Federal drug offense, or a State drug offense, if the offense is  misdemeanor, but only if the Secretary of State determines that subsection (a) of this section should apply with respect to that individual on account of that offense. This paragraph does not apply to an individual’s first conviction for a misdemeanor which involves only possession of a controlled substance.
(c) Period of ineligibility
Subsection (a) of this section applies during the period that the individual—
(1)is imprisoned, or is legally required to be imprisoned, as the result of the conviction for the offense described in subsection (b) of this section; or
(2)is on parole or other supervised release after having been imprisoned as the result of that conviction.
(d) Emergency and humanitarian exceptions
Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, the Secretary of State may issue a passport, in emergency circumstances or for humanitarian reasons, to an individual with respect to whom that subsection applies.
As used in this section—
(1) the term “controlled substance” has the same meaning as is provided in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802);
…The term “controlled substance” means a drug or other substance, or immediate precursor, included in schedule I, II, III, IV, or V of part B of this subchapter. The term does not include distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages, or tobacco, as those terms are defined or used in subtitle E of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
(2) the term “Federal drug offense” means a violation of—
(A) the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C. 951 et seq.);
(B) any other Federal law involving controlled substances; or
(C) subchapter II of chapter 53 of title 31 (commonly referred to as the “Bank Secrecy Act”), or section 1956 or section 1957 of title 18 (commonly referred to as the “Money Laundering Act”), if the Secretary of State determines that the violation is related to illicit production of or trafficking in a controlled substance;
(3) the term “felony” means a criminal offense punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year;
(4) the term “imprisoned” means an individual is confined in or otherwise restricted to a jail-type institution, a half-way house, a treatment facility, or another institution, on a full or part-time basis, pursuant to the sentence imposed as the result of a conviction;
(5) the term “misdemeanor” means a criminal offense other than a felony;
(6) the term “State drug offense” means a violation of State law involving the manufacture, distribution, or possession of a controlled substance; and
(7) the term “State law” means the law of a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or a territory or possession of the United States.
Conviction of state or federal felony drug offenses (and certain misdemeanor drug offenses) results in passport revocation if the offense involved use of the passport or the crossing of an international border. Even after passport rights are restored, convicted felons contemplating overseas travel must not forget to verify their eligibility for a visa from the destination country. Notably, a conviction for DUI—even as a misdemeanor—may be a barrier to entry to Canada. Some professional athletes have found it necessary to address this issue.