The Supreme Court has issued a decision this week that will help many non-citizens avoid being deported. A state drug offense is not considered an “aggravated felony” unless it is punishable as a felony under federal law. A second or subsequent simple possession drug offense is not punishable as a felony under federal law unless the prosecutor charges the defendant as a recidivist before trial or before a guilty plea. On June 14, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that when a defendant has been convicted of a second or subsequent simple possession drug offense that has not been enhanced as a result of a prior conviction, the defendant has not been convicted of an offense that is punishable as a felony under federal law and has therefore not been convicted of an “aggravated felony.” Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder
, 2010 WL 2346552, at *11 (U.S. June 14, 2010).The Supreme Court’s decision will help one of my clients who is currently in deportation proceedings. His case was put on hold by the immigration judge, pending the outcome of this Supreme Court case. My client obtained his permanent residence (“green card”) in 1981, is married to a U.S. citizen, and has two simple possession drug convictions. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, my client was ineligible for cancellation of removal because he was considered to have been convicted of an “aggravated felony.” However, my client was not charged as a recidivist when he was prosecuted for his second simple possession drug offense. Therefore, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, my client is no longer considered to have been convicted of an “aggravated felony” and my client is now eligible to apply for cancellation of removal. If his application for cancellation of removal is granted, he will be able to remain in the United States. The Supreme Court’s decision has saved him from deportation.