Immigrants and visaholders in the United States can face additional penalties if they are convicted of some crimes. This includes deportation. Under U.S. law, certain crimes are considered grounds for deportation – even for individuals with a green card.

A guilty plea, even as part of a plea deal, is treated as a conviction. This means it could result in a defendant being removed from the country. But what if the defendant’s lawyer did not tell them about this potential consequence?

The duty of a criminal defense attorney

Deportation is not a minor inconvenience. It is a serious consequence, one that changes the life of that individual and their loved ones. Because of the severity of deportation, a criminal defense attorney cannot ignore this punishment when advising their client.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision regarding this exact situation. The justices ruled that a defense attorney must inform clients about any possible immigration penalties, such as deportation, that might occur if they plead guilty.

If the defense attorney fails to research and discuss this possibility with their client, it might be a violation of the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees effective counsel. This failure by the lawyer then opens the door for possible post-conviction relief.

Post-conviction relief is a specialized area of the law. It allows clients the possibility at a second chance if their lawyer made serious mistakes or engaged in misconduct.

For individuals facing deportation, an error by their attorney can have life-changing consequences. Fortunately, there may be a way to help undo the damage.