Colorado drug conviction cannot be used to deport man appeals court rules.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that a Colorado man cannot be deported from the United States based on a 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.

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 Joshua Mitson and Hans Meyer, petitioned the circuit court for a review of the deportation orders based on the drug conviction.

The court on Friday 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 ruled.

The Colorado statute — 18-18-403.5(1), (2)(a) — 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 Meyer.

“This decision will help a lot of people who have minor drug convictions,” Meyer said.

Johnson, Meyer said, has had a green card since the Nixon administration. He said his client served about 18 months behind bars after pleading guilty to the drug charge.

“He served his time for his crime,” Meyer said.

Friday’s court decision was about correcting a long, ongoing injustice, Meyer said.

“The appeals court got it right: This is about correcting the law,” Meyer said. “It’s correcting the errors of the past and putting us in alignment with what the law requires in minor drug cases.”

The court also looked at additional legal considerations in coming to its decision that Johnson’s state drug conviction cannot qualify as a predicate for removal.

“We therefore grant Johnson’s petition for review, vacate the BIA’s order, and remand to the BIA for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

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