Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 2.34 E. State Statutes Require Advice of Possible Immigration Consequences

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A growing number of states (20 at last count) have statutes or court rules that require the court taking a plea to inform every defendant of the possible immigration consequences.  The intent of these provisions is to protect noncitizens from entering guilty pleas in criminal cases without first being informed of the adverse immigration consequences.  The following states have such statutes or court rules: California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.[48]


                These statutes alert the defendant, who is not a citizen of the United States, to the potential adverse immigration consequences of a plea.  The Legislative intent is generally to allow the defendant to investigate actual immigration consequences, with the assistance of counsel, and then to renegotiate the case with the prosecution in light of those consequences to avoid them if possible.[49]  They also of necessity alert criminal counsel to this danger, and do so in every single criminal case at the time of plea.  Once alerted to this danger, defense counsel must act to investigate these consequences, the actual consequences, not merely the possible ones, and advise the defendant concerning them so the defense can take appropriate action to avoid them if possible.


                Since this danger is brought to light in every single guilty plea, we are clearly on notice in these states of the potential for disaster.  This triggers the ethical duty to assist the client to learn the actual level of risk posed by this plea for this defendant, inform the client, discover how much s/he cares about the immigration consequences, and formulate a strategy to minimize those consequences to the extent the client wants to do so.

[48] Cal. Penal Code § 1016.5 (1982); Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-1j (West 1994 & Supp. 1999); D.C. Code Ann. § 16-713 (1997); Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.172(c)(viii) (1989); O.C.Ga. Ann. § 17-7-93(c) (2000); H.R.S. § 802E-1; Iowa Rule Crim. P. 2.8(2)(b); Md. Rule 4-242(e)(1999); Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 278, § 29D (1992 & Supp. 1999); Minn. R. Crim. Proc. 15.01(10)(c), 15.02(2) (1999); Mont. Code Ann. 46-12-210; N.M. Dist. Ct. R.Cr.P. 5-303(E)(5) (2000); N.Y. Code Crim. P. § 220.50(7); N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1022(a); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2943.031 (Banks-Baldwin 1997); Or. Rev. Stat. § 135.385 (1982); R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-12-22 (2000); Tex. Crim. P. Code Ann. § 26.13(a)(4) (West 1989); Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 10.40.200 (West 1990); Wis. Stat. § 971.08.

[49] See N. Tooby, Post-Conviction Relief for Immigrants § § 5.57, et seq. (2004).