Public Defenders React to Supreme Court Immigration Case

Lexington, KY – Tim Arnold with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy is hailing a recent U-S Supreme Court ruling that undocumented immigrants need to be advised, by their counsel, of possible deportation consequences for pleading guilty to crimes. He says every defendant has the right to as much accurate and complete information possible before going to trial.

"All of us at some point in our lives depended on a lawyer giving us accurate advice. It's very important in the criminal process that they do that and we're very glad that the Supreme Court has recognized that and has guaranteed that at least in immigration cases that defendants are going to get accurate advice before they enter guilty pleas."

Arnold says in the case in question, "Commonwealth versus Padilla", the defendant, a long time illegal, who was arrested on numerous drug charges, was given incomplete and erroneous advice by his own lawyer.

"He asked his attorney whether or not this would affect his immigration status and his attorney said well, you've been here a long time so I don't think so. And on that basis he pled guilty. Well, one of the offenses he was pleading guilty to was what's known as an aggravated felony, and that requires that he be deported. So he challenged his conviction on the grounds that he wasn't told that he was pleading guilty to an offense for which deportation was mandatory. To the contrary, he was told the opposite; that he wasn't going to be deported as a result of this."

Arnold says the ruling sends a strong and clear message that "the right to counsel continues to have real meaning in Kentucky".