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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT RULES THAT ATTORNEYS MUST PROPERLY INFORM DEFENDANTS WHEN GUILTY PLEA CARRIES RISK OF DEPORTATION

Joseph Coupal - Friday, April 09, 2010
In the recent case of Padilla v. Kentucky, decided March 31, 2010 (read the full text of the opinion here), the United States Supreme Court held that an attorney’s failure to properly advise his client that a guilty plea carried a risk of deportation was a violation of the client’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. This 7-2 decision means that, as a matter of federal law, counsel must correctly inform a client when a guilty plea carries a risk of deportation. Unlike past cases, where the Court stated that immigration consequences are a “collateral matter” and not directly related to the court’s disposition of a case, the Padilla Court stated that deportation is an “integral part” of the penalty that may be imposed on a non-citizen defendant who pleads guilty to specified crimes. Padilla, a lawful United States resident for 40 years, pleaded guilty to drug charges in Kentucky after he was incorrectly advised by his attorney that he did not have to worry about deportation. In fact, Padilla’s deportation was mandatory under federal law. The Kentucky Supreme Court rejected Padilla’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel on the grounds that deportation was a “collateral” matter. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Padilla sufficiently alleged a constitutional violation, because deportation is “intimately related to the criminal process.” While the prevailing viewpoint in Massachusetts is that first offense DUI convictions alone would not typically result in deportation proceedings in the absence of substantial aggravating factors, third or greater offense DUI’s are felonies under Massachusetts and federal law and certainly carry such a risk. For this reason, the immigration consequences of DUI convictions must be considered in all cases where deportation may result.

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