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U.S. Supreme Court considers drug paraphernalia and deportation

U.S. Supreme Court considers drug paraphernalia and deportation

In 2004, a Tunisian student came to the United States, where he graduated with honors and eventually earned two master’s degrees. According to MPR News, the man became a permanent resident and taught math at a university. In 2010, he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Law enforcement found that the man had four Adderrall pills in his sock. He was eventually convicted of a misdemeanor charge, as the state court considered the sock drug paraphernalia. A judge sentenced him to a year of probation, and the man was deported.

As a Minneapolis drug crime attorney knows, a drug paraphernalia charge is relatively minor and may not constitute a deportation. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing the man’s appeal, which could result in major changes to the way deportations are handled after certain drug charges.

The intersection of state and federal laws

Under federal law, the government may deport anyone convicted in a state court of a crime that is related to drugs outlined in the federal criminal code. The issue in this case is that state laws often ban additional drugs the federal government does not, like Adderall. Further, states may have a looser definition of what constitutes drug paraphernalia. This man was convicted under Kansas law, which treats any container that is used to store a drug as paraphernalia. Under federal law, experts say a conviction for a sock would likely have never happened.

What should prompt deportation?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, anyone convicted of a violation relating to a controlled substance, such as marijuana, could be deported. The Supreme Court justices pored over the statute, arguing as to whether or not it implies that a state conviction would have to relate to a substance that is controlled under federal law.

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard several cases over the last decade in which someone was deported for a minor drug conviction. As a Minneapolis drug crime attorney would note, the high court has ruled against the government in every case so far.

In recent arguments regarding this case, MPR News reported that the justices noted the following, which may indicate an overturn of the conviction:

  • The charging documents do not mention drugs
  • Paraphernalia charges are typically “extremely minor”
  • A sock does not seem related to drugs on anything more than a tenuous level

Further, the inconsistencies between state and federal laws gave several of the justices concern. They pointed out that it is possible for someone to be deported based on a drug paraphernalia conviction in a state, whereas the same conviction under federal guidelines could not be secured.

The outcome of this particular case could set the stage for reform when it comes to minor drug offenses and deportation. Anyone with questions regarding the matter should consult with a Minneapolis drug crime attorney.

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