Arrested and Deported for Possession…of a Sock?

Most of us have seen someone wearing a loud pair of holiday socks or laughed when a co-worker showed up late wearing mismatched socks. While these certainly qualify as fashion faux-pas, they’re nothing compared to the socks Mr. Moones Melloui was caught wearing.

The Trouble with Socks

While the style or color of some socks can be offensive, Moones Mellouli is learning a hard lesson in legal sock etiquette...namely that hiding drugs in his footwear is a serious offense.

Mellouli came to the U.S. from Tunisia on a student visa in 2004. Back in 2010, he was pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence. Once taken to jail and processed, authorities discovered he had stashed four Adderall tablets in his socks.

Mellouli was charged with an additional misdemeanor for possessing drug paraphernalia – specifically the sock.

In spite of a suspended sentence, one year of unsupervised probation and no controlled substance named in the arrest record, Mellouli was deported.

The Price of Drug Paraphernalia

The question is whether a non-citizen – or a green card holder – can be mandatorily detained and deported for possessing drug paraphernalia, even if there is no proof that the paraphernalia is related to a controlled substance.

Between his arrival and arrest, Mellouli attended college, graduated with honors, earned two master’s degrees in applied mathematics and economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia, became a legal resident, accepted a job as an actuary and taught math at his alma mater.

An Unlikely Case Reaches the Top

Unbelievably, the “sock case” and Mellouli’s subsequent deportation have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now the justices of our highest court are having a field day talking about the fine details of what constitutes “a container for drug concealment.”

Drug paraphernalia is defined as “equipment, products and materials of any kind which are used, intended for use, or designed for use, in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, concealing, containing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”

Under Kansas law (where Mellouli was arrested), anything holding a controlled substance can be and is considered paraphernalia. The problem, however, is that the current state and federal laws differ.

The argument, at least in this case, has become whether or not Mellouli was correctly and legally deported for possession a “controlled substance.”

Closing Arguments

“So Congress said a non-citizen becomes eligible for removal when convicted of violating ‘any law or regulation of a state, the United States or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance’ as defined in federal law,” wrote The Washington Post.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that if a sock were considered paraphernalia, then so would “a baggie, a pocket or a glove compartment” if drugs were stored in them.

“That methodology has led to tens of thousands of drug deportations each year, but not for someone convicted of possessing a sock,” said Mellouli’s lawyer.

Learn more about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Image Source: en.wikipedia.org, commons.wikimedia.org

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