Thursday, December 07, 2006

SCOTUS holds that misdemeanor drug conviction cannot be treated as felony for deportation purposes

In Lopez v. Gonzales, The Supreme Court considered whether conduct made a felony under state law but a misdemeanor under the Controlled Substances Act is a "felony punishable under the Controlled Substances Act." 18 U. S. C. 924(c)(2). Despite this federal misdemeanor treatment of the conduct, the Government argued that possession's felonious character as a state crime can turn it into an aggravated felony under the INA. Had the Government's position carried the day, a noncitizen would be subject to mandatory deportation for a drug crime that, while a felony in the state where the crime was prosecuted, is only a misdemeanor under federal law.

In the 8-to-1 decision, the High Court held that a state offense constitutes a "felony punishable under the Controlled Substances Act" only if it proscribes conduct punishable as a felony under that federal law.

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