U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Non-Citizen Defendants Must Be Advised of Immigration Consequences of Criminal Charges


Immigration regulations and criminal law intersect when a non-citizen is charged with a crime and faces possible immigration consequences, including deportation, if he is convicted of the offense. Criminal defense counsels sometimes advise their clients to plead guilty to obtain a reduced sentence or to avoid the risk of going to trial. For non-citizens, however, the effects of the criminal charge on their immigration status and their ability to stay in the United States have the deepest and most lasting consequences.

Recognizing this fact, the U.S. Supreme Court recently held in its landmark 7-2 decision, Padilla v. Kentucky, that criminal defense counsels must advise their non-citizen clients of the immigration consequences of a guilty plea. The court acknowledged that deportation is an extreme penalty and that immigration laws have become much more draconian over the years, making even minor crimes – such as shoplifting or marijuana possession – a deportable offense in some cases. “The severity of deportation – the equivalent of banishment or exile – only underscores how critical it is for counsel to inform her noncitizen client that he faces a risk of deportation,” said Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the opinion for the court.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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