False Immigration Info Earns Alien New Criminal Trial – State v. Nunez-Valdes
[7/27/09 11:49 pm] In this morning’s New Jersey Supreme Court decision in State v. Nunez-Valdez, the Justices ruled that a defense attorney can be ineffective in a constitutional sense when he provides false or inaccurate information related to the impact that a guilty plea will have on the immigration status of his client. The defendant in Nunez-Valdez entered a plea of guilty to a fourth degree sex crime. At the time of the plea, his inexperienced attorney advised him that the plea would not affect his immigration status. The defendant had been in the United States for the previous 18-years and was extremely concerned about being deported as a result of his conviction. The advice the attorney provided the defendant was legally incorrect. In fact, deportation for this criminal offense was mandatory at the time of the plea under federal law. Federal authorities thereafter sought to deport the defendant.
In his post-conviction relief petition, the defendant claimed that had he been properly informed of the mandatory deportation consequence, he never would have pled guilty. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that under the state constitution, a defendant who has been misinformed on the immigration impact of a guilty plea may successfully argue that his guilty plea be vacated as a result of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Please note that this precise issue is now pending before the United States Supreme Court in a case that will be decided during the Court’s next term. (Cert. granted Padilla v. Kentucky, 129 S. Ct. 1317
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