U.S. Supreme Court Rules that the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel Requires That Non-Citizen Defendants Receive Competent Immigration Advice Regarding Deportation Risks of a Guilty Plea
In March the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court in which the Kentucky court said that defendant Padilla was not entitled to protection from erroneous deportation advice. According to the Kentucky court, deportation is merely a collateral consequence of a criminal conviction.
In this case, defendant Padilla, a lawful permanent resident ("green card" holder) of the United States for over 40 years, faced deportation after pleading guilty to drug distribution charges. After his conviction, Padilla claimed that his lawyer not only failed to tell him that before he plead guilty that doing so would cause him to be deportable from the United States, but also told him not to worry about deportation because he had lived in this country for such a long time. Padilla contended that he would not have plead guilty but, instead, would have requested a full trial had he not received incorrect advice from his lawyer.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided that deportation is inherently part of the punishment meted out to non-citizen defendants and that constitutionally competent counsel would have advised Padilla of the consequences prior to his guilty plea. The Court said in its decision that.
It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant, whether a citizen or not, is left to the mercies of incompetent counsel. To satisfy this responsibility, we now hold that counsel must inform the client whether his plea carries a risk of deportation. Our longstanding Sixth Amendment precedents, the seriousness of deportation as a consequence of a criminal plea, and the concomitant impact of deportation on families living lawfully in this country demand no less