Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 2.24 B. It's the Right Thing to Do: Ethical Considerations

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It’s obvious that it is the right thing to do to protect our clients from an immigration disaster triggered by the outcome of a criminal case we are handling, when it may be possible to avoid it.  For one thing, we owe our clients the truth.  It is not OK for us to stand there in court and plead them out without telling them the collateral consequences, as well as the direct ones, that will or may inexorably flow from the plea.  Real estate lawyers protect their clients against tax disasters, even though they are not tax lawyers.  Family lawyers protect their clients against criminal or tax liability, even though they are not criminal or tax lawyers.  Civil lawyers protect their clients against criminal exposure, even though they are not criminal lawyers.[11]  Workers’ compensation counsel must advise their clients of possible tort claims.[12]  The boundaries of our ethical responsibilities are not set by artificial limits or the semantic labels we attach to our professional specialties, but by the needs of our clients.  There are two ethical obligations that bear on this situation. 

[11] E.g., Jacobs, Indictments Lurking in Civil Cases, California Lawyer 20 (February 2006) (describing necessity for civil lawyers to be alert to criminal issues arising in civil cases).

[12] Nichols v. Keller, 15 Cal.App.4th 1672, 1684, 19 Cal.Rptr.2d 601 (5th Dist. 1993) (workers’ compensation attorneys have a duty to to alert client of tort remedies even if they will not handle them).