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Distribution of Prescription Drugs an Aggravated Felony?

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Here's a very interesting immigration law case out of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. It's not your standard removal or asylum case. The case involves the removal of an alien, with issues involving drug trafficking and the definition of "aggravated felony."

The petitioner involved is actually a lawful permanent resident of the United States. That's what makes the case a little different from what we're used to seeing.

He was convicted on charges of distributing prescription drugs and was sentenced to four months in jail. Then came the immigration hearings. The Immigration Judge found the petitioner removable as an alien convicted of an aggravated felony.

While the Third Circuit Court of Appeals generally has jurisdiction to review a deportation, that is not the case when the deportation involves an aggravated felony.

So the real issue in this case boils down to jurisdiction. And in order to determine jurisdiction, we need to know whether the distribution of prescription drugs is an aggravated felony.

The distribution of a controlled substance counts as an aggravated felony. But do prescription medications fall into that category?

The Third Circuit applied the hypothetical felony law to see if the petitioners crime was a felony under any of the three controlled substance laws listed in section 942(c)(2) of the Controlled Substance Act.

Using this analysis, the court determined that the prescription drugs, in their entirety, did not count as controlled substances under the law, despite the fact that some of the drugs may have contained controlled substances.

As a result, the Third Circuit vacated the removal order and reversed the lower court's ruling.

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