In a move that will likely change the face of legal representation for criminal and immigration clients, the US Supreme Court today announced that non-citizens that are charged with a crime have a right to counsel. In this landmark decision, the Court ruled that criminal defense lawyers must advise non-citizen clients about any risk of deportation if they are to accept a guilty plea.
Under current US immigration law, aliens face severe immigration consequences if convicted of certain crimes, such as mandatory deportation. In the case of Padilla v. Kentucky, a Vietnam War vet who lived lawfully in the United States for forty years was advised by his criminal attorney not to worry about immigration consequences of his guilty plea. Turns out, the guilty plea resulted in Padilla’s mandatory deportation. When he discovered that he was about to be deported, he appealed to Kentucky officials to be able to withdraw his plea. However, they refused.
In finding for Padilla, the US Supreme Court has overturned Kentucky’s decision and, on a broader level, rejected the common practice of protecting non-citizens only from affirmatively bad immigration advice, as opposed to failure to provide any advice at all.