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Supreme Court: no automatic deportation for marijuana possession

Drug crimes, even ones involving small quantities of illicit substances, can have significant long-term consequences. A drug conviction can make it difficult to get a job or secure a professional license, and can remove eligibility for some student financial aid programs. In some cases, drug convictions can also cause legal immigrants to be deported from the United States.

A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court may put a stop to the practice of immigrants being deported for mere possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The case involved an immigrant from Jamaica who was charged with possession of marijuana with an intent to distribute after being caught with 1.3 grams of the drug. He accepted a plea deal in which he would stay out of jail and have the charge expunged so long as he complied with the terms of his probation.

Two years later, the man was arrested by immigration authorities and put into deportation proceedings. The government alleged that his crime was an "aggravated felony" warranting mandatory expulsion from the United States. In the eyes of the law, the man was put on the same level as someone who had been convicted of being a big-time drug dealer.

The Supreme Court decided that in situations such as this one, the accused immigrant should have the opportunity to contest his or her deportation. Writing for the majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor reasoned that it was unfair to automatically deport lawful immigrants when only a small amount of drugs is at issue and there is no evidence of drug dealing.

Source: Asbury Park Press, "Supreme Court limits deportations over marijuana crimes," April 23, 2013

Our law firm represents individuals charged with drug possession in New Jersey. For more information, please visit our website.

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