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Immigration Related Ruling on Attorney’s Responsibility to Educate and Inform Clients

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State v. Antuna, 2016 N.J. Super. LEXIS 109 (App.Div. Aug. 16, 2016)

In State v. Antuna, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey reversed the decision of the trial court which had denied Antuna from Post-Conviction Relief from deportation, based on ineffective counsel. Although Antuna’s attorney did not provide false advice or affirmative misinformation to him about the risk of deportation, the court concluded that the attorney’s performance was deficient for failing to have Antuna review every question on the plea form. Had Antuna done so, he would have been on notice of the possibility of deportation, something that he must be aware of, before entering a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary plea. Representation was therefore, not reasonable.

Implication: Attorneys should be held to the high standard of service when it comes to informing their clients.

Background Information: In 2000, Antuna executed the written plea and waiver of indictment forms based on criminal charges, but never answered the following question on the form: “Do you understand that if you are not a United States citizen or national, you may be deported by virtue of your plea of guilty? [YES] [NO] [N/A].” Antuna was sentenced to probation for three years with fines and penalties. In 2005, after applying for a green card, Antuna was placed in removal proceedings. Antuna applied for Post-Conviction Relief alleging that his attorney had been ineffective.

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