The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Campos-Corona on Thursday, February 28, 2013.
Crim.P. 35(c)—Ineffective Plea Counsel.
Defendant appealed from an order denying his motion for relief pursuant to Crim.P. 35(c). The judgment was affirmed.
Defendant was charged with one count of possession of a schedule II controlled substance with intent to distribute, and one count of conspiracy to distribute a schedule II controlled substance. He pleaded guilty to an added count of distribution of a schedule II controlled substance in exchange for dismissal of the original charges and a more favorable sentencing range. After successfully completing his sentence to probation, he faced deportation proceedings.
Defendant filed a Crim.P. 35(c) motion to seek to withdraw his plea on the ground that plea counsel was ineffective in advising him regarding the immigration consequences of his guilty plea. At the post-conviction hearing, plea counsel testified that he advised defendant that a guilty plea would make renewing his permanent residence status difficult, if not impossible, and he would likely be deported. Plea counsel stated that defendant wanted to plead guilty to try to be sentenced to probation and would deal with the immigration issue later. Plea counsel acknowledged that he had not told defendant that the plea would subject him to a mandatory removal provision from which no discretionary relief could be had.
Defendant testified that plea counsel advised him that he “would [or] could have problems” renewing his permanent resident status. He gave conflicting testimony as to whether he was advised he could be deported as a result of pleading guilty. He testified that if he had been told in absolute terms that he would be deported, he would not have entered a guilty plea. The post-conviction court found plea counsel’s representations were adequate regarding potential deportation.
On appeal, defendant argued it was error to deny his petition for post-conviction relief. The Court of Appeals found that counsel’s performance was deficient, but agreed the petition was properly denied for failure to sufficiently demonstrate prejudice. A criminal defendant is entitled to relief for ineffective assistance of counsel by showing that (1) counsel’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) a reasonable probability exists that but for counsel’s errors, the defendant “would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.”
Here, 8 USC § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) mandates removal for violation of any law relating to controlled substances other than a single offense involving possession of marijuana for personal use of thirty grams or less. Defendant admitted a significant quantity of cocaine was found in his possession and at his home. He was not advised that pleading guilty would subject him to mandatory, permanent removal. Plea counsel’s performance was not reasonable and the trial court’s finding otherwise was in error.
However, the Court agreed that even if inadequate advice was provided, defendant failed to show he was prejudiced. The Court deferred to the trial court’s findings that his testimony established only that he wanted to avoid prison and therefore it would not have been rational for him to proceed to trial. The order was affirmed.
Summary and full case available here.