In 2010, the United States Supreme Court decided Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S.Ct. 1473 (2010), wherein the Court held that Padilla’s criminal defense lawyer provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to advise Padilla that his plea to charges of drug distribution would subject him to automatic deportation under 8 U.S.C. section 1227(a)(2)(B)(i). The Court further held that in order to render effective assistance of counsel, a criminal defense attorney must advise his or her client whether a plea carries a risk of deportation. See Padilla, 130 S.Ct. at 1486.
The issues surrounding pleas and immigration consequences are not new to Florida’s trial or appellate courts. In 2006, four years prior to Padilla, the Florida Supreme Court held that claims of ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel’s failure to warn of the immigration consequences of a plea must be filed within 2 years of the date that the judgment and sentence (or order withholding adjudication of guilt) become final. See State v. Green, 944 So. 2d 208, 217-218 (Fla. 2006). Since Padilla, the issues surrounding immigration or deportation consequences of pleas have remained on the forefront, and one of the latest issues is the retroactivity of Padilla. In April of 2011, the Third District Court of Appeal issued a decision in Hernandez v. State, 61 So. 3d 1144 (2011), wherein the Court certified the question of the retroactivity of Padilla to be of great public importance. Although the State of Florida and Hernandez filed their jurisdictional briefs with the Florida Supreme Court in September of 2011, the Court has yet to issue an opinion. At the end of 2011, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that Padilla does not apply retroactively. See Rodriguez v. State, No. 4D10-2016, 2011 WL 5964343 (Fla. 4th DCA Nov. 30, 2011). Since the issue of retroactivity has yet to be decided, I suppose that Florida’s criminal defense bar, and criminal defendants alike, will have to continue to wait to see what path the Court will choose. The docket in Hernandez v. State, No. SC11-1357, can be viewed here.