The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Morones-Quinonez on Thursday, November 5, 2015.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Advising of Immigration Consequences.
Defendant was charged with one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of criminal impersonation after officers conducting a traffic stop discovered a false identification card in her possession. She hired a lawyer whose practice focused on immigration and criminal law to represent her in both the criminal case and the removal proceedings that had been subsequently initiated.
Defendant alleged in her Crim.P. 35(c) motion that she was adamantly opposed to accepting any plea offer that would make her ineligible for relief from deportation. Her lawyer recommended she plead guilty to criminal impersonation, assuring her that she would be “just fine” in immigration court because it was “minor felony” and would not affect her immigration case. Defendant pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and was later order deported by an immigration law judge. She filed this Crim.P. 35(c) motion, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. She contended that if she had been properly advised, she would have rejected the plea and proceeded to trial. The district court denied the motion without a hearing.
Defendant was entitled to a hearing so long as she asserted facts in her post-conviction motion that, if true, would provide a basis for relief. Applying the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the Court of Appeals examined whether defendant showed that (1) counsel’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) a reasonable probability exists that counsel’s deficient performance prejudiced the defendant.
The Court found that defendant had sufficiently pleaded deficient performance by her counsel. The Court disagreed that the district court could find as a matter of law that defendant’s allegation of prejudice was insufficient. It also found that the district court’s advisement did not cure any potential prejudice from the lawyer’s advice. Accordingly, the order was reversed and the case was remanded for an evidentiary hearing.