Lazo v. Wilkinson, No. 14-73182 (9th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision holding that petitioner's 1999 conviction for simple possession of cocaine in violation of California Health and Safety Code 11350 qualifies as a "controlled substance offense," thereby rendering him removable under section 237(a)(2)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i).
Although California Health and Safety Code 11350, by its terms, applies to a broader range of "controlled substance[s]" than the narrower federal definition that governs under section 237(a)(2)(B)(i), the panel agreed with the BIA that petitioner's conviction nonetheless qualifies under the so-called "modified categorical" approach to analyzing prior convictions. Applying this approach, the panel concluded that section 11350 is a "divisible" statute that defines multiple alternative offenses, depending upon which controlled substance was possessed. In this case, because petitioner's conviction under section 11350 was for possession of cocaine, and because cocaine qualifies as a "controlled substance" under the applicable federal definition, it follows that petitioner was convicted of an offense "relating to a controlled substance" within the meaning of section 237(a)(2)(B)(i). Therefore, the panel concluded that petitioner was properly ordered to be removed from the United States.