Supreme Court: The Landmark Drug Case addressing Aggravated Felonies


In December 2006, in an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court reversed years of blanket rulings that held almost all drug crimes to be aggravated felonies. 

INA 101(a)(43)(B) defines an aggravated felony to include "illicit trafficking in a controlled substance (as described in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), including a drug trafficking crime (as defined in section 924(c) of title 18, United States Code)"

In a lengthy, but well-worth-the-read decision, the Supreme Court turned to a plain reading of the law to hold that "Conduct made a felony under state law but a misdemeanor under the Controlled Substances Act is not a 'felony punishable under the Controlled Substances Act' for INA purposes."   

The Court refuted the Government's position stating "To determine what felonies might qualify, the Court naturally looks to the definitions of crimes punishable as felonies under the CSA.  If Congress had meant the Court to look to state law, it would have found a much less misleading way to make its point."  The Government's argument to the contrary contravenes normal ways of speaking and writing[.]"