Tuesday, June 15, 2010

US Supreme Court Rejects Deportation Ruling from Fifth Circuit

"Justices Back Immigrant in Drug Deportation Case"
By ANNIE YOUDERIAN

"The government cannot deport a Mexican who has been living in the United States for nearly three decades based on a second minor drug offense: possession of a single anti-anxiety pill without a prescription, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The high court unanimously reversed the 5th Circuit's ruling that upheld the deportation of Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo, who came to the United States in 1983, when he was 5 years old. He is a legal permanent resident, and his wife and four children are all U.S. citizens.

"Like so many in this country, Carachuri-Rosendo has gotten into some trouble with our drug laws," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote.

In 2004 Carachuri-Rosendo received 20 days in prison for possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana. The next year he pleaded no contest to possessing a single tablet of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax without a prescription and received 10 days in jail.

Under Texas law, Carachuri-Rosendo could have been given an enhanced sentence for the second offense, because he had been convicted of a similar crime, but the Texas prosecutor chose not to charge him as a recidivist.

However, the government argued that Carachuri-Rosendo's second offense triggered deportation, because he could have been charged with an aggravated felony under federal immigration law.

The 5th Circuit agreed, ruling that a simple drug possession offense is always a felony after the defendant has been convicted of a similar crime.

But the Supreme Court emphatically rejected the government's hypothetical approach.

"[W]e are to look to the conviction itself as our starting place, not to what might have or could have been charged," Stevens wrote.

"Carachuri-Rosendo was not actually 'convicted' of a drug possession offense committed 'after a prior conviction ... has become final,' and no subsequent development can undo that history.""
 
http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/06/14/28059.htm
 
Read the Decision: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/09-60.pdf

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