Padilla v. Kentucky

Following is the case brief for Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010)

Case Summary of Padilla v. Kentucky:

  • Padilla, a 40-year permanent resident of the U.S., was charged with transporting a large amount of marijuana.  Padilla’s attorney said that he would not be deported as a result of pleading guilty to a drug charge because he was in the country for so long.  In fact, deportation was virtually mandatory for the crime to which he pleaded.
  • When seeking post-conviction relief, Padilla argued that his counsel was ineffective.  He indicated that he would not have pleaded guilty if he knew that deportation was likely.
  • The Kentucky Supreme Court rejected his petition, finding that deportation was only a collateral consequence of Padilla’s conviction.  Thus, the Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel did not include advice on immigration consequences.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court reversed and remanded.  It held that a criminal defense attorney has the obligation to advise his client of the potential immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a criminal charge.

Padilla v. Kentucky Case Brief

Statement of the Facts:

Jose Padilla, a Honduras native, had lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for over 40 years.  He had served in the U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam.  He pleaded guilty to transporting a large amount of marijuana in Kentucky.  As a result of the plea, he faced deportation.

At the time of his plea, Padilla’s lawyer not only failed to tell him there may be immigration consequences as a result of a plea, but affirmatively told him that he does not have to worry about his immigration status because he had been in the U.S. for a long time.  Relying on that advice, Padilla pleaded guilty.  The charge to which he pleaded makes deportation virtually mandatory. Padilla indicated that he would not have pleaded guilty had he known of the immigration consequences of his plea.

Procedural History:

  • Padilla filed a petition for post-conviction relief.  He alleged that his counsel was ineffective because of the incorrect information on the immigration consequences of his plea.
  • The Kentucky Supreme Court denied the petition.  It found that the possibility of deportation was only a “collateral consequence” of the conviction, and therefore his Sixth Amendment rights were not implicated.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Issue and Holding:

Does a lawyer have the obligation, based on the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, to advise a client that the offense to which he was pleading guilty could result in deportation?  Yes.

Judgment:

The judgment of the Kentucky Supreme Court is reversed and remanded.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

As part of a person’s right to effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment, a lawyer has the obligation to advise a client that there may be immigration consequences, such as deportation, for pleading guilty to a particular criminal offense.

Reasoning:

  • Knowledge of immigration consequences of a plea is important.

Over the course of history, the number of offenses that may result in deportation has grown exponentially.  Thus, because deportation is virtually certain for many non-citizens convicted of crimes, the importance of accurate advice as to the immigration consequences of a plea has never been more vital.  In most cases, in fact, the possibility of deportation is more important than a jail sentence to a non-citizen defendant who is deciding whether to plead guilty.

  • The Strickland standard applies in this case.

The Strickland v. Washington standard applies here because, contrary to the Kentucky Supreme Court’s holding, this Court has never distinguished between direct and collateral consequences with regard to the right to effective counsel under the Sixth Amendment.  Even though deportation is a civil matter, it is inextricably linked to the decision to plead guilty in a criminal case.

In this case, Padilla’s counsel was clearly ineffective because he not only failed to give correct information about the possible immigration consequences, but affirmatively gave incorrect information.  With regard to the second prong of Strickland — whether Padilla was prejudiced by counsel’s error — the Court will leave that question to the lower courts on remand.  Those courts have yet to consider the issue.

Concurring and Dissenting Opinions:

Concurring Opinion (Alito):

The Court is wrong to expect a criminal defense attorney to know the intricacies of the immigration law in giving plea advice.  Rather, a criminal attorney should advise a client that there may be immigration consequences to accepting a plea, and to consult with an immigration attorney to obtain more information.

Dissenting Opinion (Scalia):

The Constitution is not an open document to allow the Court to do all that should be done in a perfect world.  The terms of the Sixth Amendment only guarantees effective advice on defending against a criminal prosecution, not on potential collateral consequences of a plea.

Significance:

Padilla v. Kentucky is significant because it places new and broad responsibilities on criminal defense attorneys.  Namely, criminal attorneys must now advise non-citizen clients of the potential immigration consequences of a guilty plea.  The case may also open the door for defense attorneys to have additional responsibilities on other collateral consequences of a guilty plea.

Student Resources:

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/559/356/dissent.html

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2009/08-651

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