DENVER (AP) — The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that a Colorado man cannot be deported from the United States based on his drug conviction.
Everett Johnson, a citizen of the Bahamas who became a “permanent resident” of the U.S. in 1977, pleaded guilty in 2016 to possessing a schedule II controlled substance in Colorado, The Denver Post reported.
Based on the drug conviction, the Department of Homeland Security and the Board of Immigration Appeals sought Johnson’s removal from the U.S. back to the Bahamas.
Johnson, through his attorneys, petitioned the circuit court for a review of the deportation orders.
The court ruled that because the Colorado Revised Statute used as a basis for deportation “is overbroad and indivisible as to the identity of a particular controlled substance, Johnson’s conviction cannot subject him to removal from the United States.”
“A state drug conviction cannot qualify as a basis for removal if the state statute’s elements are broader than the federal analogue,” the court said.
The Colorado statute criminalizes more substances than Section 802 of Title 21 in the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“More specifically, Johnson asserted that the Colorado statute was overbroad because it criminalized possessing a substance called morpholine — a substance that the CSA does not criminalize,” the ruling said.
Friday’s ruling will have broad implications and could affect hundreds of people in Colorado who face deportation on drug convictions, according to Hans Meyer, one of Johnson’s lawyers.