Colorado Supreme Court

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday denied a former Denver man’s claim of ineffective counsel in his deportation proceedings.

Alfredo Juarez pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance in April 2012. He was a Mexican national and lawful permanent resident in the United States. Juarez then engaged in a series of violations of his probation and a suspended jail sentence. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement subsequently deported him to Mexico.

While there, Juarez challenged the constitutionality of his guilty plea on the basis of ineffective representation. A court found that he had spoken to two immigration attorneys prior to the plea and he was informed that the misdemeanor would have had the same effect under immigration law as a felony, and he would likely be deported.

The court found that "the defendant regretted his plea only after he violated his probation and was deported and therefore there was no merit in his assertion that had he been told he would ‘automatically’ be deported he would not have accepted the plea agreement,” wrote Chief Justice Nathan B. Coats.

Juarez argued that his lawyer should have used the phrase “automatic deportation” or “presumptively mandatory deportation” when talking about Juarez’s risk, instead of saying he would “probably be deported.”

“[W]hen the deportation consequence is truly clear, the duty to give correct advice is equally clear,” Coats agreed, before mentioning that Juarez’s attorney went to “substantial lengths” to give accurate information.

Justice Richard L. Gabriel concurred with Coats’s decision, but believed that Juarez’s lawyer did not in fact communicate clearly about the immigration consequences. He charged the lawyer with giving a "false sense of hope" to Juarez that the law might change someday and a misdemeanor would put him in a better position, despite the fact that his plea would result in virtually automatic removal.

“Nonetheless, like the majority, I would affirm the judgment here,” Gabriel wrote, “because the record does not support Juarez’s contention that but for counsel’s deficient advice, he would not have pleaded guilty and instead would have proceeded to trial.”

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