People v. Valdez, 2016 IL 119860 (September). Episode 242 (Duration 8:15).
Judge’s immigration admonishments cured the lack of any immigration advice from trial counsel.
Facts & Admonishments
When the defendant plead guilty to burglary the court admonished defendant about the charge and potential penalties in accordance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402(a).
The court then admonished defendant, pursuant to section 113-8 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/113-8), that a burglary conviction…
“may have the consequences of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization under the laws of the United States.”
Later in the proceedings, the judge admonished defendant that pleading guilty to burglary meant he “could be deported from the country,” a decision that would be “up to the federal government.”
Defendant again acknowledged that he understood the potential immigration consequences and wanted to go forward with his guilty plea.
Within 30 days of entering his plea, defendant alleged that defense counsel failed to inform defendant of the consequences of his plea on his resident alien status.
Indeed, the facts showed defense counsel never informed defendant that a burglary conviction might affect his immigration status.
This Is No Padilla
This case differs from Padilla, where the immigration consequences of the defendant’s conviction were held to be “succinct, clear, and explicit” based on express language in the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Here, it is not clear on the face of the immigration statute that defendant’s burglary conviction rendered him deportable.
The Act does not identify burglary as a deportable offense. Instead, the Act sets forth general categories of offenses, including crimes involving moral turpitude (8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(i) (2012)) and aggravated felonies (id. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii)), which may or may not include burglary.
Moreover, even if we read Padilla as requiring a minimal review of the case law, federal authorities do not clearly answer whether defendant’s burglary conviction, as defined by Illinois state law, is a crime involving moral turpitude.
The term “crime involving moral turpitude” has no settled meaning. Unlike the straightforward application of the statute in Padilla, determining whether defendant’s burglary charge, as defined by Illinois state law, is a CIMT requires extensive research of federal case law.
Even then, there is no clear answer.
Under these circumstances, the Illinois Supreme Court said that counsel was required to give defendant only a general warning of the possibility of immigration consequences.
Illinois Supreme Court disagreed that the immigration consequences of defendant’s burglary conviction were “succinct, clear, and explicit.”
Consequently, where the face of the statute does not succinctly, clearly, and explicitly indicate that a conviction subjects a defendant to mandatory deportation, counsel need only advise a defendant that his plea “may” have immigration consequences.
Court’s Own Admonishments Can Cure
It is undisputed in this case that defendant received inadequate legal advice from counsel.
The circuit court found that counsel gave defendant no advice about immigration consequences before entering his guilty plea. Thus, defendant has sufficiently alleged that his counsel’s performance was constitutionally deficient under the first Strickland prong.
However, there was no prejudice here.
It is well established that admonishments by the circuit court can cure prejudice to a defendant resulting from counsel’s incorrect advice.
Defendant cannot now argue that his counsel’s failure to inform him of the immigration consequences of a guilty plea caused him to forgo a trial when the circuit court conveyed the same information to him and defendant still chose to plead guilty.
To accept the defendant’s claim would require the court to to characterize the court’s lengthy and exhaustive admonitions as merely a perfunctory or ritualistic formality; a characterization we are unwilling to make.
Any prejudice suffered by defendant as a result of counsel’s failure was cured by the circuit court’s strict compliance with section 113-8 of the Code.
Accordingly, defendant has failed to establish he was prejudiced under Strickland, and the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
Appellate court is reversed; guilty plea is reinstated.