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Randy Penaranda Cabantac v. Holder

The Ninth Circuit held that an abstract of judgment for a California Health and Safety Code section 11377(a) conviction that indicates a plea to a criminal count that identifies the substance as a regulated substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act (here, methamphetamine) satisfies the government's burden to prove removability for conviction of a controlled substance offense. It held this was the case even where the abstract itself does not identify the substance (here, counsel for the immigrant obtained amendment of the abstract to remove its specification of the controlled substance).

The panel further disregarded the fact that Cabantac's plea was pursuant to West/Alford because the plea transcript identified the substance as methamphetamine.

The lesson? Correct an abstract of judgment early in the removal proceedings if necessary, but that may not be enough if competent immigration counsel was not involved at the time of the criminal proceedings. (A shameless plug to consult with an attorney such as myself!)