Three years ago, the Supreme Court considered the case of José Padilla. Mr. Padilla was born in Honduras in 1950, immigrated to the United States at a young age, and became a lawful permanent resident of the United States. He served his adopted country in the Vietnam War.
In 2001, Padilla was working as a commercial truck driver when police found marijuana in his truck. He pled guilty to drug charges after his lawyer told him he did not have to worry about deportation. His lawyer was wrong. The Supreme Court then set the guilty plea aside because it was agreed to based on the ineffective assistance of counsel.
What happened since amounts to a thunderstorm in the legal community. Many convictions, including those convictions resulting from a guilty plea, carry collateral consequences of all sorts having nothing to do with immigration or deportation. Does the right to “effective counsel” require that the accused be advised of each and every possible consequence of pleading guilty?
Either way, anyone sitting in the accused’s shoes will want an attorney who will give just such comprehensive advice. Depending on the type of conviction, consequences can include:
– Limits to state or federal employment,
– Denial of some professional or business licenses,
– Limits on civil and constitutional rights, such as voting or gun ownership,
– Impact on family or domestic issues,
– Registration obligations (especially for sex-related offenses),
– Denial of property ownership rights (for example seizure of car or other property deemed used in the crime pled to)…
and more. Guilty pleas are common and probably should be. They should be entered into with full knowledge of the consequences, however, and failure to do so might be grounds to set the plea aside later.