I continue to file post-conviction relief petitions on behalf of non-citizens who have pleaded guilty to criminal offenses and now face deportation as a result. With recent changes to the law, namely the US Supreme Court decision in Padilla, it is now clear that defense counsel and the court must advise a resident alien (not a citizen) pleading guilty to a criminal offense, of the immigration consequences of that plea.
I recently filed a PCR application in a local municipal court for a client who had pleaded guilty to shoplifting on multiple occasions. As a result of these convictions, she was in removal proceedings and was going to be deported if the convictions were not overturned.
I filed the petition, made my arguments based on Padilla, but the municipal court judge denied us. I appealed to the law division of the New Jersey Superior Court, and the Judge there overturned the municipal court, and sent the case back to the municipal court with the direction that the court have an evidentiary hearing regarding my client’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel (failed to advise of immigration consequences).
When we appeared back in the municipal court, the court, without taking testimony, vacated my client’s conviction for shoplifting, upon the state’s motion, and my client, at the same time, entered a plea to a municipal ordinance violation. This offense is not deportable, and she will be able to avoid deportation as a result.
She was very, very happy