Mellouli v. Lynch

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: June 1, 2015
  • Case #: 13-1034
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J., and Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Alito, J., joined
  • Full Text Opinion

A lawful alien resident may be deported if convicted of a drug-related state crime only where the drug is a federally regulated substance.

Petitioner plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense under State law for the possession of a drug paraphernalia. The "paraphernalia" Petitioner was charged with possessing was a sock in which four unidentified orange tablets was found. Under 8 U.S.C. §1227(a)(2)(B)(i), a lawful alien may be deported if "convicted of a violation of . . . any law or regulation of a State . . . relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 802 of Title 21)". Section 802 defines a controlled substance as any "drug or other substance" included in one of the five federal schedules. Petitioner's state defines controlled substance as any drug included on its own schedule without reference to the federal statute, including at least nine substances not on the federal schedule. The immigration court, Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Eighth Circuit all found the Petitioner subject to removal under the statute. The Court held that the text of the federal "controlled substance" statute must be followed, limiting the definition of "controlled substance" to mean a drug listed in the federal guidelines. To trigger steps for deportation, an alien must be convicted of possessing a drug or drugs that are identified as a controlled substance on the federal schedule.

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