In a devastating blow to non U.S. Citizens with criminal convictions, the United States Supreme Court recently held in Chaidez v. United States that an immigrant who pled guilty to a criminal charge based on bad or no advice about the immigration consequences of their criminal plea from their criminal defense attorney can not go back and challenge that prior conviction if it is older than the law allows. In the State of Florida, a person can only challenge a criminal conviction that happened within the last two (2) years.
This decision can have traumatic consequences for non U.S. citizens who have old, and even relatively minor criminal convictions. For example, a person that has been in the United States for twenty (20) years as a lawful permanent resident who has a criminal conviction from 15 years ago could be deported based on that criminal conviction. Even if his criminal defense attorney told him at the time that the conviction would not result in his deportation.
The Supreme Court reasoned that the decision in Padilla, which held that a criminal defense attorney had an obligation to affirmatively advise his or her client of the immigration consequences of the criminal plea, was a new rule and does not apply retroactively. Therefore, only those individuals who were convicted after the Padilla decision came out and within the time frames allowed by law will be able to challenge prior criminal convictions.
The Chaidez decision serves as an important reminder to immigrants who are currently, or who will at any time in the future face, criminal charges to seek the advice of an experienced immigration lawyer who can properly advise you whether your criminal plea can, will, or will not subject you to deportations.
Read the Supreme Court’s decision here.