Why Words Matter in Deportation Cases

NJ Deportation LawyerThe immigration attorneys at Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo, LLC have taken a great interest in a recent case heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court. The case grappled with how an illegal immigrant should be told what his or her chances of being deported are if they plead guilty to a crime in New Jersey.

In these kinds of cases, words matter.

The case heard before the high court was State v. Lipa. In 2009, a native of Peru pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to nine years in prison. The guilty plea is not actually what is in contention here, but whether it was appropriate for a judge to tell the defendant that it was “more than likely” that he would be deported after serving his sentence.

This case is complicated by the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in State v. Nunez-Valdez, just six months after the defendant pleaded guilty, that the deportation consequences of a guilty plea should be fully explained to a non-citizen. A similar ruling was handed down by the court in the case of Padilla v. Kentucky in 2010. The court later ruled that Padilla v. Kentucky could not be applied retroactively.

The New Jersey Supreme Court also ruled in State v. Gaitan that the U.S. Supreme Court findings would only be applied prospectively in the state, seemingly leaving the defendant out in the cold.

The public defender representing the immigrant told the New Jersey high court that regardless of the previous rulings, the warnings given to his client were not strong enough. He contended that the judge should have warned the man that he “will” be deported as opposed to saying he was “more than likely” to be deported.

A New Jersey assistant attorney general argued that the man had a full understanding he would be deported if he pleaded guilty. The man’s attorney told the court that his client did not speak English and may not have fully understood the consequences of his guilty plea.

A ruling on this case has not yet been issued.

We are awaiting the high court’s ruling with great anticipation. Depending on how this ruling falls, it could have great impact on other deportation cases. Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo is a full-service law firm that deals with all aspects of immigration law. If you have immigration questions and concerns, please call us at (888) 847-2529 or contact us online today.