What Lawyers Need to Tell Clients Before a Guilty Plea

Your immigration attorney may have told you about a United States Supreme Court case called Padilla v. Kentucky. In Padilla, the United States Supreme Court ruled that immigrant criminal defendants must be informed by their lawyers whether pleading guilty to a crime could lead to deportation.

Jose Padilla was a native of Honduras and a decorated Vietnam War veteran who lived in the United States for more than 40 years as a lawful permanent resident. In 2001, he was working as a truck driver when his semi truck was stopped by a police officer in Kentucky. The officer searched the truck and found a large amount of marijuana.

Padilla did not want to plead guilty to the drug charges, but his attorney assured him that his guilty plea and the five-year prison sentence would not affect his immigration status.

Padilla's lawyer was wrong.

The guilty plea triggered mandatory deportation. When Padilla learned this, he tried to withdraw his plea, arguing that he had been denied effective assistance of counsel.

The Supreme Court noted that the stakes have been dramatically raised in recent years for immigrant noncitizens pleading guilty to crimes. Due to recent changes in the laws, deportation is now mandatory for a wide variety of crimes, including drug crimes like the one with which Padilla was charged.

What the Supreme Court Said

The Court said that when lawyers fail to advise their clients that a guilty plea will result in deportation, those clients were denied the effective assistance of counsel that is required by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Court held that it is critical for counsel to inform their client if a guilty plea could result in deportation.

This Supreme Court decision affects tens of thousands of immigrants in the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court recognized that, for an immigrant, preserving his or her right to remain in the United States may be more important than any jail sentence.

Were You Properly Advised About the Immigration Consequences of Your Conviction?

If you believe that the Padilla decision may affect you, it is imperative that you talk with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer about your options. At our California law firm, we utilize years of experience in criminal defense matters to help you protect the rights and freedom of noncitizens. We encourage you to contact us for a free consultation about how we may be able to help you. To reach us, call 213-784-4504 or simply fill out the online contact form.