WASHINGTON – Immigrants who are convicted of minor marijuana offenses are not subject to mandatory deportation, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
Those whose crime amounts to a social sharing of a small amount of marijuana should be able to at least ask the attorney general to spare them automatic deportation, the court ruled 7-2.
The court sided with Adrian Moncrieffe, who came to the U.S. legally from Jamaica in 1984 at age 3. Although the amount of marijuana found during a 2007 traffic stop in Georgia was equivalent to two to three marijuana cigarettes, federal authorities decided to deport him.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor said his crime should not have been considered among the charges of illicit drug trafficking for which deportation is mandatory. She said it would have to be shown that Moncrieffe had a larger amount of marijuana or that he intended to sell it for such a penalty to be triggered.
She was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
Sotomayor criticized the government for doling out such tough penalties.
This is the third time in seven years that we have considered whether the government has properly characterized a low-level drug offense as illicit trafficking in a controlled substance,’ and thus an aggravated felony,’ she wrote. Once again we hold that the government’s approach defies the commonsense conception of these terms.