Massachusetts Court Grants Defendant’s Appeal in Drug Case, Citing Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Earlier this month, a defendant in Massachusetts asked a court of appeals to overturn his conviction for possession of a class B substance with intent to distribute. On appeal, the defendant argued that his previous attorney had not properly advised him of the immigration consequences that he would face if he entered a guilty plea. If he had known these consequences, said the defendant, he would not have pled guilty in the first place. The court of appeals reviewed the defendant’s argument and ultimately agreed with him, reversing the lower court’s verdict as a result.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant came to the United States from Guatemala as a child. Because the defendant’s parents had neglected him in Guatemala, the defendant applied for a special immigration status called “Special Immigration Juvenile” status, which allows immigrants whose parents have mistreated them to gain status in the States.

While the defendant was awaiting a decision from the judge on his Special Immigration Juvenile status case, he was charged with drug possession after an officer found him with crack cocaine. The defendant received a court-appointed attorney to help him navigate the criminal case, and that attorney failed to mention to the defendant that if he pled guilty to the crime, he would no longer be eligible for the Special Immigration Juvenile status he had been working so hard to get.

The defendant pled guilty, and his application for Special Immigration Juvenile status was automatically denied. The court demanded that the defendant be deported back to Guatemala.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that he would not have pled guilty to the crime if he had known the plea would have led to deportation. His court-appointed lawyer was ineffective in that he failed to inform the defendant of this basic, immigration-related advice. By not advising him of the immigration consequences, the attorney fell below the standard of an ordinary lawyer, and the attorney’s error greatly prejudiced the defendant.

The court looked at the record in the case and agreed with the defendant. It was unacceptable, said the court, for a criminal defense attorney to fail to advise his client of possible immigration consequences of a guilty plea. These immigration consequences are potentially life or death for some criminal defendants, and defense attorneys are required to explicitly inform defendants of how they might be affected by a guilty plea.

Thus, said the court, the defendant’s argument had merit, and he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea as a result.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges in Massachusetts?

The repercussions of a Massachusetts drug conviction can be daunting, and it is of the utmost importance to have a knowledgeable, thorough attorney protecting you if you have found yourself navigating the criminal justice system. At the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, have been fighting for the accused in Massachusetts for 27 years, and we would be honored to fight for you. For a free and confidential consultation, call us today at 617-367-0450.

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