Attorney Mooradian succeeded last week in vacating a criminal conviction that rendered his client subject to imminent deportation. Mooradian's client, a middle-aged man from a Caribbean nation, had entered the United States approximately 20 years ago. During his early years in the United States, he was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute in Class B, School Zone, when his friend's vehicle was stopped and police discovered drugs in the car.
At that time, Mooradian's client was very worried about going to jail, as he had several U.S. Citizen children to support financially. His previous attorney had advised him, some 8 or more years ago, that he could avoid jail if he pleaded guilty. Mooradian's client pleaded to a continuance without a finding (a probationary period) to avoid time in jail and separation from his family. However, this plea was a grave mistake, as it left him per se deportable under the federal immigration law statute.
Upon reviewing the client's immigration status, Attorney Mooradian quickly discovered that the client's green card was expired. However, the criminal conviction on his record, which resulted from the client's unwitting plea to a conviction for immigration purposes, left him unable to safely renew his permanent resident status. In fact, if the client had contacted the Department of Homeland Security to renew his green card, he likely would be subject to immediate detention and a process to remove him from the United States permanently. The client would be subject to drug related grounds of permanent inadmissibility once outside the United States as well. In essence, the client was forced to live in hiding to avoid being removed back to his country of origin and to avoid separation from his multiple U.S. Citizen kids.
Attorney Mooradian realized that the case could only be resolved by means of post-conviction relief. He submitted a motion for a new trial, stating that the client had not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his right to a trial. Mooradian also obtained a statement from previous counsel stating that the client had not been properly advised of the immigration consequences of his plea. Under the Supreme Court ruling of Padilla v. Kentucky, criminal defense attorneys have an affirmative duty to advise their clients with regard to the immigration consequences of their criminal convictions. Attorney Mooradian thus argued to the Worcester District Court Judge that the attorney's performance in failing to warn the client of the immigration consequence of the plea was deficient; that the client was thereby prejudiced; and that such failure to advise the client constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The judge agreed and granted the motion for a new trial.
Following negotiations with the Commonwealth, the client's criminal case which was restored by the motion for a new trial was dismissed. Now, with no criminal convictions on his record, the client can move forward to continue life as a lawful permanent resident, renew his green card, and has avoided his imminent deportation to his country of origin and likely prolonged separation from his children.