Recently, a decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court delved into the question of when mandatory deportation should be required for legal residents who are convicted of a drug crime.
The individual at the center of the case had lived in the United States since he was just three years old. He came to this country in 1984 with his parents. Throughout the time he lived in the U.S., he was a legal resident. Then, in 2007, the man was stopped by a law enforcement officer in Georgia. The officer conducted a search of his vehicle, which uncovered a small quantity of marijuana. The amount of marijuana found could have made just two to three cigarettes.
As the man wished to avoid jail time, he agreed to accept a plea deal, which also provided that the conviction would be expunged from his record following a five-year probationary period. He pled guilty to marijuana possession with the intent to distribute. Despite the charges, there was no evidence that he was intending to sell the marijuana for profit.
Unfortunately, the man was not told that accepting the plea agreement could result in his deportation. At a federal level, officials determined the charges constituted an aggravated felony, which requires mandatory deportation.
The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with that assessment, finding the charges did not even amount to a felony under federal law. Consequently, the man will be able to contest the deportation ruling and may be allowed to return to the U.S. to remain with his family.
Source: NPR, “Justices Say U.S. Improperly Deported Man Over Marijuana,” Nina Totenberg, April 23, 2013.