4.28.2008

SCOTUS Resolves Split Re Whether State Misdemeanors Can Rank As a "Felony Drug Offence" under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)

Per Burgess v. U.S., 128 S.Ct. 1572 (Apr. 16, 2008):

Burgess, proceeding pro se, petitioned for a writ of certiorari. We granted the writ, 552 U.S. ----, 128 S.Ct. 740, 169 L.Ed.2d 578 (2007), to resolve a split among the Circuits on the question Burgess presents: Does a drug crime classified as a misdemeanor by state law, but punishable by more than one year's imprisonment, rank as a “felony drug offense” under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)? Compare 478 F.3d 658 (case below), and Roberson, 459 F.3d 39 (§ 802(44) provides exclusive definition of “felony drug offense”), with United States v. West, 393 F.3d 1302 (C.A.D.C.2005) (both § 802(13) and § 802(44) limit meaning of “felony drug offense”).

The term “felony drug offense” contained in § 841(b)(1)(A)'s provision for a 20-year minimum sentence, we hold, is defined exclusively by § 802(44) and does not incorporate § 802(13)'s definition of “felony.” A state drug offense punishable by more than one year therefore qualifies as a “felony drug offense,” even if state law classifies the offense as a misdemeanor

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