Justice Daniel Conviser

Mercedes moved to vacate a 2002 guilty plea for criminal possession of a controlled substance, arguing his attorney failed to advise him of the immigration consequences of his plea. He claimed that had he known the consequences, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have gone to trial. Mercedes, now 32, faced mandatory deportation because of the conviction. His trial attorney, Medina, testified it was not his practice to discuss immigration matters with clients before guilty pleas, and only began informing them about same after Padilla v. Kentucky. Also, Medina stated he did not mention immigration issues to clients facing “non-incarceratory disposition,” believing authorities did not get involved in a defendant’s life with such pleas. The court stated the evidence indicated Mercedes was not informed of the immigration consequences of his plea, and not having previous contacts with the criminal justice system, Mercedes’ assertion that he was unaware of such consequences, thus did not ask was plausible. It found the “quintessential situation” of exile or decades of banishment was worse than a prison sentence existed here, granting the motion.