Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Defendant-appellant and Jordanian citizen Kamal Abdul Fryhaat had been living in the United States for over 30 years. In 2001, he pleaded guilty to various drug-related offenses and admitted to having suffered a prior prison term. In exchange, defendant was released on his own recognizance on various terms and conditions. Defendant subsequently violated his release terms and was sentenced to six years eight months in state prison. Approximately 17 years later, in 2018, as he was facing deportation proceedings, defendant filed a motion to vacate his guilty plea pursuant to Penal Code section 1473.7, arguing his conviction was legally invalid and not knowingly and intelligently made because neither his trial counsel nor the court advised him about the immigration consequences of his guilty plea. The trial court summarily denied defendant’s motion, and defendant appealed. On appeal, he argued the trial court erred in denying his motion to vacate his conviction because the court summarily denied his motion without a hearing, without his presence, and without appointed counsel in violation of section 1473.7. He therefore requested the matter be remanded for a hearing consistent with the provisions of section 1473.7. The State conceded defendant was partially correct, and that the matter must be remanded. Specifically, the State asserted defendant was entitled to a hearing, but as recent amendments to section 1473.7 made clear, defendant did not have a right to appointed counsel and his presence could adequately be protected by use of telephonic or videoconference services. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed the order denying defendant’s motion to vacate his conviction and remanded with instructions to the trial court to conduct a hearing pursuant to section 1473.7, evaluate defendant’s request for appointed counsel, and to consider the motion on its merits. View "California v. Fryhaat" on Justia Law

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Defendant Sara Salcido provided immigration services. Under the Immigration Consultant Act (Act), with certain exceptions, it is illegal for a person to act as an “immigration consultant” (as defined in the Act) unless he or she has complied with a host of consumer protection requirements, such as passing a background check and filing a bond. Defendant failed to comply with these. As a result, defendant was convicted on one count of misdemeanor unlawfully engaging in the business of an immigration consultant. The State argued, however, that each time defendant took money from a client in exchange for providing immigration services, she was committing theft by false pretenses, because she was not a legally qualified immigration consultant under state law. The trial court agreed; thus, it also convicted her on six counts of grand theft, and two counts of petty theft. It dismissed two additional counts of grand theft as time-barred. Defendant was placed on probation for five years. Defendant contended the Act was preempted by federal law. She demurred to the complaint on this ground. The Court of Appeal determined federal law did not preempt the application of the Act to defendant. View "California v. Salcido" on Justia Law

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In March 2003, Raul Novoa pled guilty to possession of methamphetamine for sale. The trial court sentenced him to 180 days in county jail and three years' probation. In 2012, the United States began deportation proceedings against Novoa, which were ongoing at the time of this opinion. In May 2017, Novoa successfully moved to vacate his 2003 conviction per Penal Code section 1473.7. The State appealed, arguing the trial court erred by: (1) holding Novoa's trial counsel to a duty the law did not require; and (2) finding Novoa suffered prejudice. In support of its position, the State contended the superior court's factual findings were not supported by substantial evidence. Moreover, the State argued laches prohibited Novoa's motion. The Court of Appeal found the State’s arguments were without merit and thus affirmed the superior court. View "California v. Novoa" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal granted Reyna Hernandez’s petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking to have her conviction for possession of methamphetamine for the purpose of sale vacated and the opportunity to withdraw her guilty plea. The record both showed her appointed trial counsel failed to advise her before she entered her guilty plea that her plea would subject her to mandatory deportation, and contained evidence, including contemporaneous objective evidence, she would not have entered her guilty plea had she been so advised. The Court of Appeal published this opinion because it discussed evidence establishing ineffective assistance of counsel, including prejudice, for failure to advise of mandatory deportation consequences attached to a guilty plea. View "In re Hernandez" on Justia Law

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In August 2000, Pablo Gonzalez pled guilty to possession for sale of marijuana. The trial court sentenced Gonzalez to 74 days in custody After serving his 74 days in custody, Gonzalez was deported in October 2000. Gonzalez reentered the United States about a year later. He subsequently was convicted of possession of a controlled substance for sale, making criminal threats, and domestic battery. In June 2002, Gonzalez was deported again. He reentered the United States, but was deported yet again in April 2017. On January 1, 2017, Penal Code section 1473.7 became effective, allowing a person no longer imprisoned or restrained to move to vacate a conviction or sentence for one of two reasons, including that "[t]he conviction or sentence is legally invalid due to prejudicial error damaging the moving party's ability to meaningfully understand, defend against, or knowingly accept the actual or potential adverse immigration consequences of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere." In August 2017, Gonzalez moved to vacate his 2000 conviction under section 1473.7. After an evidentiary hearing, the superior court denied Gonzalez's motion. Gonzalez appealed, contending the court erred in denying his motion under section 1473.7. Specifically, he claimed he established prejudicial error based on his counsel's failure to adequately advise him of the immigration consequences of his plea and failure to seek an immigration safe alternative disposition. The Court of Appeal concluded Gonzalez's arguments lacked merit, and as such, affirmed. View "California v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Appellant pled guilty to felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a billy club. He also admitted the allegations in the motion to revoke probation in an earlier case. Appellant was sentenced to three years’ probation and a 180-day county jail term. When he entered his pleas the court explained, and Appellant acknowledged, the possible immigration consequences of his convictions. Counsel stated he had advised Appellant accordingly. Appellant was placed in removal proceedings but was granted cancellation of the removal. In 2015, Appellant was found in possession of methamphetamine for sale, resisted arrest, and attempted to destroy evidence; he was placed on probation for five years. In the new criminal case, Appellant pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and was sentenced to 360 days in the county jail. In 2017, Appellant moved to vacate revocation of probation under Penal Code 1473.7(a)(1), alleging ineffective assistance of counsel regarding the immigration consequences of his admission and sentence. The court of appeal affirmed denial of the motion. Appellant, a convicted felon currently on formal probation, is not entitled to the relief under section 1473.7. He did not establish ineffective assistance; the trial court would not have tolerated any lesser sentence and it is unlikely Appellant would have gone to trial under the circumstances. View "People v. Cruz-Lopez" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Morales pleaded no contest to a drug offense. He served his sentence, voluntarily departed the U.S., and reentered the country. In 2017, while residing in the U.S., he moved to vacate this conviction under the newly enacted Penal Code section 1473.71, hoping to obtain legal status via a “U visa.” Morales contended that but for his conviction, his assistance in a 2009 law enforcement investigation would have made him eligible for that visa, and that he pleaded no contest only because of the ineffective assistance of his counsel, who failed to tell him his conviction would result in his deportation and inability to ever legally reenter the U.S.. The superior court denied his motion without prejudice based on its interpretation of section 1437(b), which addresses the timeliness and due diligence required of motions filed in the face of removal proceedings. The court of appeal reversed. The lower court ignored the plain terms of section 1473.7(a)(1); interpreting subdivision (b) to prevent noncitizens from seeking relief until and unless they are subject to removal proceedings would turn a provision about timeliness and due diligence into one that guarantees delay and renders section 1473.7 ineffectual in many cases. View "People v. Morales" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Vikash, a U.S. citizen born in Fiji, married Ashlyne, a citizen of Fiji, in Fiji in an arranged marriage. Vikash filed an immigration visa petition on Ashlyne's behalf, which was approved, and submitted an I–864 affidavit of support, under which the sponsor agrees to “[p]rovide the intending immigrant any support necessary to maintain ... an income that is at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines ... that person may sue you for this support.” According to Ashlyne, Vikash abused her and “tricked” Ashlyne into going to Fiji in 2013, where he abandoned her. Her legal permanent resident stamp was torn out of her passport. Ashlyn obtained temporary documents from the U.S. Embassy and returned to the U.S. Vikash sought an annulment. Ashlyne indicated she had applied for government assistance and argued that by signing the I–864 affidavit, Vikash agreed to support her for 10 years. The court awarded temporary support and ordered Ashlyne to make efforts to get the necessary paperwork "to work in this country if she is intending on remaining.” The court later terminated support and denied Ashlyne’s request to enforce the I–864 because Ashlyne was “not using best efforts to find work.” The court of appeal reversed. An immigrant spouse has standing to enforce the I-864 support obligation in state court and has no duty to mitigate damages. View "In re: Marriage of Kumar" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that a period of supervision following deportation is impractical and inconsistent with the goals and purposes of the legislation that mandates imposition of split sentences. At the time of his sentencing, the trial court considered Arce's request for a split sentence and denied it. The trial court noted that upon his release from physical custody, defendant Jose Arce was subject to deportation proceedings initiated by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The trial court found that, given the risk Arce would be deported during the period of any mandatory supervision, and thus not be subject to the probation department's supervision or able to participate in the rehabilitative services offered by the department, a split sentence was not a realistic disposition. On appeal, Arce argued the trial court should have considered the possibility that he would be able to challenge his deportation and stay in this country either temporarily while his immigration status was litigated or, although unlikely, permanently. He noted that a number of other factors that show he was amenable to mandatory supervision, including the fact that he has been in this country lawfully since 2000, had no prior criminal record, was married to a United States citizen and had three children, all of whom were also United States citizens. Split sentences are the preferred disposition in eligible cases because they provide released prisoners with close supervision and supportive services designed to substantially reduce the risk of recidivism. As a practical matter, such supervision and services are not available after a prisoner has been deported. View "California v. Arce" on Justia Law