Lawyer Must Inform Defendant About Possible Deportation, Says Florida Court

If you are not a citizen of the United States, and you are convicted of a crime, it may result in being deported back to your home country. This is clearly a notable consequence, and lawyers are supposed to advise their clients of this if it is a possibility. If you are charged with a crime in Florida, it is crucial that you have a knowledgeable defense attorney to advise you about all the potential consequences of any course of action you may choose. United States law requires that criminal defendants facing incarceration have competent counsel. If a defendant can prove that their counsel was not competent then they may be granted a new trial.

Facts of the Case

In this appeal, the Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida discussed the requirements for defendants facing possible deportation. The defendant in this case was charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell or deliver. With the assistance of his counsel, he agreed to a plea agreement. The defendant pled no contest to the charges. Thus, an adjudication of guilt was withheld and he was given 18 months of probation.

However, soon after the plea was entered, deportation proceedings were started against the defendant as a result of the plea. According to the defendant, his attorney did not warn him about this potential consequence of the plea. Therefore, he was asking that his plea be thrown out so he could instead go to trial. Since the appeals court here found that his attorney did in fact advise him of this consequence, the plea was affirmed.

Florida Law

The Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure has contemplated exactly this kind of situation and has specific laws around what is required of trial judges and attorneys. In the past, Florida courts required trial judges to inform defendants that if they are not a United States citizen a plea of no contest (or “nolo contendere” in Latin) or guilty may subject them to deportation. However, even if this warning was given, a defendant may still be able to successfully pursue a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

As of 2016, Florida criminal procedure law requires that the court inform defendants that if they are not United States citizens the court’s acceptance of a guilty or no contest plea may affect their immigration status, even if an adjudication of guilt is withheld. It also includes a warning to defendants that if they do not understand this potential consequence they should talk to their defense counsel and the court will give them adequate time to do that.

In the instant case, the transcripts of the hearing show that the defendant was given the time to consult with immigration attorneys.  The appeals court pointed out that there were several continuances granted just for this reason. Further, the defendant testified under oath that he was aware of the consequences of his plea and still wished to enter it.

 Contact A Knowledgeable Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney Today!

In order to make an informed decision, defendants must be aware of all of the potential consequences of taking a plea or fighting the case in court. The criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm make sure that clients are fully informed about their options and the potential outcomes of any choices they make. Whether you decide to take a plea or fight the charges in court we will make sure you understand everything along the way. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our experienced attorneys about your case.

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