Supreme Court Decides Immigration Case

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Mellouli v. Lynch, a case involving the removal from the United States of Moones Mellouli, a lawful permanent resident from Tunisia, based on a Kansas misdemeanor drug paraphernalia conviction for possession of a sock used to hide four tablets of the prescription drug Adderall. In the end, the Court ruled that Mr. Mellouli could not be removed from the United States on the basis of his Kansas conviction for concealing unnamed pills in his sock.

It may seem beyond belief that the United States would deport an individual who’s been living lawfully in this country since 2004 because of a few pills found in a sock. Yet, the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. In this case, Mr. Mellouli was found to have 4 Adderall pills in a sock. He was eventually convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia. More importantly, the charging documents and the plea agreement never mentioned the kind of drug that was involved. This proved to be crucial because there was no evidence on the record as to whether the drug in question was a controlled substance under federal law.

Because this was Mr. Mellouli’s second drug conviction, the United States sought to remove him. Under immigration law,  the deportation/removal statutes require a drug conviction under state law must “relate to a controlled substance (as defined) by” federal law. This requirement is important because some states ban substances in addition to those regulated by federal law. (Kansas, for example, regulates at least nine substances not regulated by federal law.) The charging document and plea agreement in Mellouli’s criminal case failed to identify the specific controlled substance related to the paraphernalia that served as the basis for his conviction and thus did not make it clear that the substance was controlled by federal law. Nonetheless, the immigration court and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), with the approval of the court of appeals, ordered Mellouli deported from the United States.

The court’s opinion went through the maze of immigration statutes and in the end, the court held that the Kansas conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia without mention of the specific controlled substance, cannot serve as a basis for deportation.

While the decision would seem to call out the Immigration authorities and its courts as to their inconsistent, overbroad and careless reasoning in attempting to deport Mr. Mellouli from the United States, the apparent problems cited in this case can be easily overcome in the future. For the government, especially prosecutors, they need only make mention of the type of drug involved in a drug paraphernalia case in order for the immigration courts to determine if the controlled substance in question is on the federal list. For defense attorneys, make certain that if your client is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia that you are absolutely certain what controlled substance is involved in the charge. Some illegal drugs in the state may not be controlled substances on the federal list. In the end, it may make a huge difference to your non-citizen client as to the likelihood of deportation.

If you have a deportation case, call the immigration law firm of Mirque Law, PLLC in Grand Rapids, Michigan at 616-233-9300.

 

Share

Speak Your Mind

*

Translate »