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Articles Posted in PLEA AGREEMENTS

New York Criminal Lawyers need to closely examine the immigration consequences of any plea by a non-citizen.  New York’s highest court recently decided a case in which it found that a lawful permanent resident could not vacate his conviction for failure to receive advice of potential immigration consequences because he was given a notice during his arraignment discussing the potential immigration consequences for non-citizen defendants. Under New York law, if a criminal defendant is not a U.S. citizen, a court must notify a defendant that “he or she may be deported as a consequence of a guilty plea to a felony.”

In the case before the New York Court of Appeals, the defendant was arrested and charged with burglary in the second degree in 2011. The defendant was born in the Dominican Republic but was a lawful permanent resident of the United States. During the defendant’s arraignment, the state filed a “Notice of Immigration Consequences” with the court and gave a copy to defense counsel. The notice stated in English and Spanish that if the defendant was not a U.S. citizen, a guilty plea, conviction after a trial, or youthful offender adjudication “subjects you to a risk that adverse consequences will by imposed on you by the United States immigration authorities,” including removal from the United States. The notice advised defendants to “consult with your attorney for advice specific to your circumstances.” The notice further advised that “deportable offenses” included “burglary, robbery, receipt of stolen property, or another other theft-related offense” deemed an aggravated felony under immigration law. It also stated that if the crime was an aggravated felony, or if you have not been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years with at least seven years’ continuous residency and the crime is a deportable offense, there would be additional consequences, including ineligibility for cancellation of removal.

Eight months later, the defendant pleaded guilty to attempted burglary in the second degree. During the plea colloquy and allocution, the court did not discuss potential immigration consequences and the defendant did not ask about potential immigration consequences. He was sentenced to five years of incarceration and three years of post-release supervision. Four years later, the defendant filed a motion under CPL 440.10 to vacate his conviction based his attorney’s failure to inform him of potential immigration consequences as a result of his plea. The defendant claimed that his attorney did not inform him of the effects of pleading guilty on his immigration status and that he was not told that he could lose his lawful permanent resident status.

When most people think about the characteristics they want in a New York criminal defense attorney, terms like aggressive, vigilant, and zealous often come to mind. And to be sure, these are all traits that a well-rounded defense attorney should possess. However, this most certainly is an incomplete list. One of the most essential characteristics for all New York criminal defense attorneys to have is the ability to negotiate on behalf of their client.

One of the areas in which negotiation is especially important is when discussing plea agreements. Many criminal cases end up in a negotiated guilty plea for an agreed-upon sentence. Other plea agreements are “open guilty pleas,” meaning the defendant places all sentencing discretion in the hands of the judge, potentially with a recommendation from the prosecutor.

As we have reported in the past.  Plea bargaining is not only important but having a criminal defense attorney who can plea bargain effectively is a basic constitutional right.  Please read our past blog about the US Supreme Court vacating guilty pleas for ineffective assistance of counsel.

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