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No Deportation for Immigrant Charged with Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

On June 1, 2015, the Supreme Court decided Mellouli v. Lynch, 2015 WL 2464047 (2015). Mellouli was arrested in Kansas for DUI. During a post arrest search, the police officers found four orange Adderall tablets hidden in his sock. Mellouli ended up pleading guilty to a single misdemeanor charge for possessing drug paraphernalia, with the sock being the paraphernalia. An immigration judge ordered Mellouli deported under a statute that authorized deportation for a violation "relating to" a substance listed in the controlled substance (defined under federal law). 

By a 7-2 vote, the court ruled that Mellouli's crime should not be considered enough to remove him from the country under federal law. While, Adderall is a controlled substance under both federal and Kansas law, Mellouli's conviction made no mention of Adderall or any other controlled substance. Further, in the federal system, possessing drug paraphernalia isn't even a crime.

The government argued that Mellouli's conviction related to the drug trade and that was sufficient to satisfy the removal statute. However, according to the court, "...the Government's construction of the federal removal statute stretches to the breaking point, reaching state-court convictions, like Mellouli's in which no controlled substance...[is] an element of the offense." Further, interpreting the statute to include convictions under statutes having some indirect connection to drugs, "departs so sharply from the statute's text and history that it cannot be considered a permissible reading."

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