Crimes of Moral Turpitude


§ 10.10 7. Grounds for Vacating a Conviction Based on a Plea of Guilty or No Contest

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The great majority of criminal convictions occur in state courts.  Generally speaking, in federal courts, court and counsel will take greater care to follow the procedures required to produce a legally valid conviction, although even their mass-production techniques produce frequent errors especially when the courts are busier and the cases less serious.


The majority of criminal convictions in all courts follow pleas of “guilty” or “no contest” (both of which have the same effect in both criminal and immigration court).  Relatively few criminal convictions occur as a result of jury trials, and even fewer as a result of court trials.  It is usually substantially more work and more difficult to set aside a conviction that flowed from a trial rather than one that resulted from a plea by the defendant.  On the other hand, a guilty plea waives all errors in the proceedings (other than constitutional and jurisdictional defects and, in California practice, the denial of a motion to suppress evidence).[109]  Thus, the possible claims for relief following a guilty plea are more limited than those following a trial.  Potential grounds to vacate a conviction following a trial are too numerous for complete coverage here.  What follows is a checklist of selected grounds for vacating guilty pleas not already discussed in § 10.8, supra.[110]  See N. Tooby, California Post-Conviction Relief for Immigrants (2002), Post-Conviction Relief for Immigrants (2004).

[109] California Penal Code § 1237.5.

[110] For other collections of grounds on which habeas corpus has been granted, see 1 J. Liebman & R. Hertz, Federal Habeas Corpus Practice and Procedure 7-13 (1993 Cum. Supp.); Reitz, Federal Habeas Corpus: Post-conviction Remedy for State Prisoners, 108 U.Pa.L.Rev. 460, 481-88 (1960); Wells, Habeas Corpus and Freedom of Speech, 1978 Duke L.J. 1307, 1349-51; D. Wilkes, Federal Post-conviction Remedies and Relief § § 4-4 to 4-9 (1996 & 1998 Supp.).