Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
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Both the State and respondent-defendant Eswin Figueroa-Lemus petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment affirming the denial of the defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, was arrested in 2012, and charged with one count each of possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving under the influence. In 2013, he pled guilty to the controlled substance count pursuant to a statutorily sanctioned stipulation with the district attorney for the deferral of judgment for a period of two years, pending satisfaction of the conditions of his deferral. At the providency hearing at which his plea was taken, the defendant acknowledged his awareness that his plea could make him deportable, and defense counsel affirmatively stated on the record that he and the defendant had a lengthy conversation about immigration consequences, after which the defendant understood that this drug offense would render him deportable. When expressly asked by the trial court whether plea counsel’s statement was true, the defendant responded affirmatively. Weeks thereafter, the State moved to revoke the deferred judgment, alleging that defendant had been arrested by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) officers and therefore could no longer comply with the requirements of his deferred judgment. Defendant then moved to withdraw his guilty plea. The State challenged the appellate court’s jurisdiction on the grounds that until defendant was actually sentenced and judgment of conviction enters, there could be no final judgment from which an appeal would lie. Defendant challenged the appellate court’s ultimate conclusion on the merits that he was not entitled to an advisement by his counsel to the effect that he would be detained without bond during the pendency of any deportation proceedings initiated against him by the federal government. The Colorado Supreme Court found that because a guilty plea taken pursuant to a statutorily sanctioned stipulation to defer judgment and sentence does not become a final, appealable judgment unless and until the deferral is revoked, sentence is actually imposed, and judgment of conviction enters, defendant was without any immediate right to appeal the denial of his motion, and the court of appeals was therefore not authorized to entertain the defendant’s claim. Choosing, nevertheless, to exercise its original jurisdiction in this case, the Supreme Court found the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendant’s motion. The court of appeals' judgment was vacated. View "Colorado v. Figueroa-Lemus" on Justia Law

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Alfredo Juarez appealed the denial of his motion for postconviction relief. In 2012, Juarez pleaded guilty to one class 1 misdemeanor count of possessing a schedule V controlled substance, in exchange for the dismissal of a charge of felony possession. As stipulated in the plea agreement, he received a sentence to two years of drug court probation. At the time of his offense and plea, the defendant was a citizen of Mexico and a lawful permanent resident of the United States. A month after his sentencing, the defendant violated the conditions of his probation, received a suspended two-day jail sentence, and two weeks later, after violating the conditions of that suspension, served those two days in jail. After he received an additional three-day jail sentence for again violating his probation, federal Immigration Customs and Enforcement (“ICE”) officers began removal proceedings. Defendant was eventually deported to Mexico. In October 2012 and January 2013, defendant filed motions for postconviction relief, challenging the effectiveness of his plea counsel’s representation and, as a result, the constitutional validity of his guilty plea. Over a period of three days, the district court heard these motions, including the testimony of defendant, taken by video over the internet; the testimony of his plea counsel; and the testimony of an immigration attorney retained by him in 2011, prior to his acceptance of the plea agreement. With regard to his challenge to the effectiveness of his counsel, the district court found both that defense counsel adequately advised his client concerning the immigration consequences of his plea of guilty to misdemeanor drug possession and that, in any event, there was no reasonable probability Juarez would not have taken the plea. The intermediate appellate court similarly found that counsel’s advice fell within the range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases, but as a result of that finding, the appellate court considered it unnecessary to address the question whether counsel’s performance prejudiced Juarez. The Colorado Supreme Court thus concluded that because Juarez conceded he was advised and understood that the misdemeanor offense to which he pleaded guilty would make him “deportable,” defense counsel’s advice concerning the immigration consequences of his plea correctly informed him of the controlling law and therefore did not fall below the objective standard of reasonableness required for effective assistance concerning immigration advice. The judgment of the court of appeals was therefore affirmed. View "Juarez v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Frederico Alvarado Hinojos, a citizen of Mexico, immigrated to the United States in 1991 with his wife and two daughters. Sixteen years later, in 2007, he pled guilty to felony menacing with a deadly weapon and misdemeanor third-degree assault. Alvarado Hinojos successfully completed both his deferred judgment and his probation sentence. Therefore, in 2009, the trial court dismissed the guilty plea to the felony count and terminated the probation sentence on the misdemeanor count. In July 2015, Alvarado Hinojos filed a motion for postconviction relief in which he collaterally attacked his third-degree assault conviction under Crim. P. 35(c). The question Alvarado Hinojos' appeal raised for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether, as a noncitizen, Alvarado Hinojos was entitled to a hearing on the timeliness of his Crim. P. 35(c) postconviction motion when he invoked the justifiable excuse or excusable neglect exception and alleged that plea counsel provided him no advice regarding the immigration consequences of his plea. The Supreme Court held that when the plea agreement or the plea hearing transcript is submitted, the trial court should consider it in conjunction with the allegations advanced. In this case, the Court held Alvarado Hinojos was not entitled to a hearing. The factual allegations in his motion (which were assumed to be true), when considered in conjunction with the plea agreement, were insufficient to establish justifiable excuse or excusable neglect for failing to collaterally attack the validity of his misdemeanor conviction within the applicable eighteen-month limitations period. The immigration advisement contained in the plea agreement, at a minimum, gave Alvarado Hinojos reason to question the accuracy of his plea counsel’s advice regarding the immigration consequences of the plea. "Thus, even taking at face value the allegations in his motion, he was on notice at the time of his plea that he needed to diligently investigate his counsel’s advice and, if appropriate, file a timely motion challenging the validity of his conviction." View "People v. Alvarado Hinojos" on Justia Law

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Israel Chavez-Torres was born in Mexico who immigrated to the United States with his mother and three sisters in 1991 when he was thirteen years old. In August 1996, while in high school, Chavez-Torres pled guilty to first-degree felony criminal trespass. He received probation, which he completed successfully. In 2013, seventeen years after his conviction, the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) notified Chavez-Torres that it had initiated removal proceedings against him based on his conviction. Chavez-Torres promptly consulted an immigration attorney who advised him that his conviction made him ineligible for cancellation of removal proceedings. The immigration attorney thus opined that plea counsel may have provided Chavez-Torres ineffective assistance by failing to provide an advisement about the immigration consequences of the plea. The question Chavez-Torres' appeal raised for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether, as a noncitizen, Chavez-Torres was entitled to a hearing on the timeliness of his Crim. P. 35(c) postconviction motion when he invoked the justifiable excuse or excusable neglect exception and alleged that plea counsel provided him no advice regarding the immigration consequences of his plea. The Supreme Court held that when the plea agreement or the plea hearing transcript is submitted, the trial court should consider it in conjunction with the allegations advanced. In this case, Chavez-Torres was entitled to a hearing. "Chavez-Torres alleged that he had no reason to question or investigate his plea counsel’s failure to advise him regarding the immigration consequences of his plea. Further, although he was not required to do so, Chavez-Torres submitted the plea agreement and the plea hearing transcript with his motion, and neither references the immigration consequences of his plea." View "Colorado v. Chavez-Torres" on Justia Law