Padilla v. Kentucky Virginia Criminal Plea Immigration Fairfax Loudoun

Import of Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Padilla vs. Kentucky

The following is an analysis by the SRIS Law Group Virginia Immigration Lawyers.  If you need help with a criminal case that may have immigration consequences, contact us for help.  Our immigration lawyers & criminal defense lawyers help clients in Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina & California.


Petitioner Padilla, a lawful permanent resident of the United States for over 40 years, faced deportation after pleading guilty to drug-distribution charges in Kentucky.  While represented by counsel, Padilla pled guilty to the three drug charges in exchange for dismissal of the last charge and a sentence of ten years on all charges.  As part of the plea agreement, Padilla agreed to serve five years of the sentence and to remain on probation for the remaining five years.  Padilla claimed that he pled guilty in reliance on his defense counsel’s advice that “he did not have to worry about immigration status since he had been in the country so long.” Under federal law, Padilla’s felony drug conviction is an aggravated felony and a deportable crime.  On August 18, 2004, Padilla filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Kentucky Rule of Criminal Procedure.  He alleged that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel in that his attorney had misadvised him regarding the potential for deportation as a result of his guilty plea.  Padilla claimed that but for his attorney’s misadvise, he would not have accepted the plea agreement.  The Hardin County Circuit Court denied Padilla’s motion for relief, finding that a valid guilty plea does not require that the defendant be informed of every possible consequence of a guilty plea.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the Hardin Circuit Court’s decision and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing.  The Court of Appeals found that although the Sixth Amendment does not require criminal attorneys to advise clients of collateral consequences of criminal convictions, such as deportation, the affirmative act of grossly misadvising a client of collateral consequences can justify post-conviction relief.  The Supreme Court of Kentucky reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision, and reinstated the final judgment of the Hardin Circuit Court.  The Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled that neither counsel’s failure to advise a client of neither collateral consequences nor counsel’s misadvice regarding collateral consequences of conviction provide a basis for post-conviction relief.  Following the Supreme Court of Kentucky’s decision, Padilla petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.  The Supreme Court held that the distinction between collateral and direct consequences was ill-suited to the deportation context, so advice regarding deportation was not categorically removed from the ambit of the Sixth Amendment.  Under Strickland, a court first determines whether counsel’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.  Then the court asks whether there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.  Because counsel must inform a client whether his request carries a risk of deportation, Padilla has sufficiently alleged that his counsel was constitutionally deficient.  Whether he is entitled to relief depends on whether he has been prejudiced, a matter for the state courts to consider in the first instance.


This case has included within the ambit of sixth amendment rights, the right of a defendant to be informed of the immigration consequences of his conviction.  The Court holds that the Strickland rule while applied to guilty requests shall include effective advise on the immigration consequences of the request as well.  It is acknowledged that “as a matter of federal law, deportation is an integral part of the penalty that may be imposed on noncitizen defendants who requestd guilty to specified crimes.”

To satisfy Strickland’s two-prong inquiry, counsel’s representation must fall “below an objective standard of reasonableness,” and there must be “a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.  While determining what constitutes constitutional deficiency in legal service, the court divides all cases that are tried into two categories.  Cases in which the deportation consequences of a request are unclear and those were the consequences are fairly apparent.  In those cases where consequences of a request are law are “not succinct and straightforward”, a criminal defense attorney need do no more than advise a noncitizen client that pending criminal charges may carry adverse IMM. consequences.  But when the deportation consequence is truly clear, as it was here (“relevant immigration statutes are succinct, clear, and explicit in defining the removal consequence for Padilla’s conviction”), the duty to give correct advice is equally clear.

The Court rejected the view of the Solicitor General that Strickland should be applied to Padilla’s claim only to the extent that he has alleged affirmative mis-advise.  The Court conceded that in this case there is no relevant difference “between an act of commission and an act of omission” and observed:

A holding limited to affirmative misadvice would invite two absurd results.  First, it would give counsel an incentive to remain silent on matters of great importance, even [*26] when answers are readily available.  [] Second, it would deny a class of clients least able to represent themselves the most rudimentary advice on deportation even when it is readily available.

Effect of the Court’s decision:

The Solicitor general argued that the request bargains would spur litigation and overly strain the judicial system.  Ky. contends that citizens would seek similar protection by arguing that a particular collateral consequence is just as important to them as deportation is to a non-citizen.  It warns that any attempt to carve out an exception for deportation, as opposed to other types of collateral consequences, would “open the Pandora’s box of collateral matters that will have to be addressed individually by the courts, thereby further overburdening an overtaxed judicial system.”

The Court has acknowledged the concerns of the solicitor general in recognizing new grounds for attacking the validity of guilty requests, but has observed that “the 25 years since Strickland was first applied to ineffective-assistance claims at the request stage have shown that requests are less frequently the subject of collateral challenges than convictions after a trial” and that “informed consideration of possible deportation can benefit both the State and noncitizen defendants, who may be able to reach agreements that better satisfy the interests of both parties.’

Possibility of retrospective effect:

Kentucky has raised concerns regarding the importance of protecting the finality of convictions obtained through guilty requests and the Court has observed that’ “We confronted a similar “floodgates” concern in Hill, see id., at 58, 106 S. Ct. 366, 88 L. Ed. 2d 203, but nevertheless applied Strickland to a claim that counsel had failed to advise the client regarding his parole eligibility before he requestded guilty.”

The Court further observed that:

A flood did not follow in that decision’s wake. Surmounting Strickland’s high bar is never an easy task.  See, e.g., 466 U.S., at 689, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674 (HN11 “Judicial scrutiny of counsel’s performance must be highly deferential”); id., at 693, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674 (observing that “[a]ttorney errors . . . are as likely to be utterly harmless in a particular case as they are to be prejudicial”).  Moreover, to obtain relief on this type of claim, a petitioner must convince the court that a decision to reject the request bargain would have been rational under the circumstances. See Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470, 480, 486, 120 S. Ct. 1029, 145 L. Ed. 2d 985 (2000). There is no reason to doubt that lower courts — now quite experienced with applying Strickland — can effectively and efficiently use its framework to separate  [*29] specious claims from those with substantial merit.

It is also observed that, “It seems unlikely that our decision today will have a significant effect on those convictions already obtained as the result of request bargains.”

The Courts have further analyzed the consequences of their judgment, in the context of retrospective application and has observed that:

[i]n the 25 years since we first applied Strickland to claims of ineffective assistance at the request stage, practice has shown that requests are less frequently the subject of collateral challenges than convictions obtained after a trial.  requests account for nearly 95% of all criminal convictions.  But they account for only approximately 30% of the habeas petitions filed.  The nature of relief secured by a successful collateral challenge to a guilty request — an opportunity to withdraw the request and proceed to trial   — imposes its own significant limiting principle: Those who collaterally attack their guilty requests lose the benefit of the bargain obtained as a result of the request.  Thus, a different calculus informs whether it is wise to challenge a guilty request in a habeas proceeding because, ultimately, the challenge may result in a less favorable outcome for the defendant, whereas a collateral challenge to a conviction obtained after a jury trial has no similar downside potential.

From the aforesaid observations of the court and the state’s concerns regarding opening of floodgates, it is evident that the instant decision can be applied to cases where deportation resulted from the convictions obtained as a result of a bargain. B

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