March 27, 2017

Statutory warning about possible deportation consequences doesn’t conclusively preclude plea withdrawal

In People v. Patterson, the Supreme Court today holds that a Canadian citizen facing mandatory deportation because of a guilty plea to a drug possession charge might have good cause to withdraw the plea even though he was given a statutory warning that his criminal conviction “may” make him deportable.  The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Leondra Kruger states that the warning does not necessarily give notice of an “actual risk” of adverse immigration consequences and that, “for many noncitizen defendants deciding whether to plead guilty, the ‘actual risk’ that the conviction will lead to deportation — as opposed to general awareness that a criminal conviction ‘may’ have adverse immigration consequences — will undoubtedly be a ‘material matter[]’ that may factor heavily in the decision whether to plead guilty.”

The court reverses the Fourth District, Division Two, Court of Appeal.

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