Immigration – Retroactive Application of Padilla in MA

Commonwealth v. Clarke, 460 Mass. 30, 2011 WL 2409894: SJC Holds that Padilla applies retroactively

Decided by the SJC on August 17, 2011

Brief summary of facts: Defendant was arrested for being in possession of alcohol as a minor in 2004 when he was 17 years old. In the search incident to the arrest, officers found multiple bags of crack cocaine, marijuana, and over $1,000 in cash. He subsequently pleaded guilty to 2 counts of possession with intent to distribute and underage possession of liquor in 2005. In 2009, he received a notice from Homeland Security notifying him that he was subject to removal of the U.S. for being convicted of an aggravated felony. He then filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas on the ground that they were not knowing and voluntary because he did not understand the intent element of the crimes. His motion was denied. He then filed a motion for a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel since he claims that he was never warned that a guilty plea would result in deportation. This motion was also denied. On appeal to the SJC, the issue is whether Padilla v. Kentucky (which held that defense counsel must advise their clients as to the deportation consequences of a guilty plea) applies retroactively.

Summary of the holding: SJC held that Padilla does apply retroactively because the Supreme Court did not intend to create a “new” rule with the Padilla holding. However, the SJC affirmed on grounds that the defendant failed to establish he was prejudiced by counsel’s deficient failure. 

Wassem M. Amin

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