STATE v. OSIBISA HALL, SC 18621
Judicial District of Hartford at G.A. 12.
Criminal; Guilty Pleas; Immigration; Whether the Defendant Should be Allowed to Withdraw his Guilty Pleas Based on the Trial Court's Failure to Address Him Personally About the Possible Immigration Consequences of His Pleas. The defendant pleaded guilty to one count of possession of marijuana with intent to sell and two counts of violation of a protective order. Subsequently, the defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, claiming that the trial court failed to comply with General Statutes § 54-1j (a), which requires the court to address the defendant personally and instruct a defendant on possible immigration and naturalization consequences that may result from a guilty plea and to ensure that the defendant fully understands those potential consequences, which include deportation and denial of readmission. The trial court observed that, during the plea canvass, the immigration issue was directly addressed to defense counsel who indicated he had discussed the immigration consequences of pleading guilty with his client. It also noted that, before sentencing, the prosecutor had stated that the defendant was going to be deported. Citing these facts, the court denied the defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, and the defendant appealed. The Appellate Court (120 Conn. App. 489) determined that the trial court did not substantially comply with the mandates of § 54-1j (a), noting that the trial court did not at any time during the plea hearing personally address the defendant regarding the potential immigration consequences of his pleas, nor did the court recite those consequences as part of its canvass. The Appellate Court also concluded that the trial court's inquiry of defense counsel as to whether he had talked to the defendant about the immigration consequences of his pleas could not be construed as compliance with the requirements of the statute. The state, however, argued that the trial court's lack of literal compliance with § 54-1j (a) was irrelevant because the defendant knew that his pleas might result in deportation. In support of its position, the state cited to the defendant's testimony, which was given during a probation violation hearing that took place several months before the plea hearing in question, in which he stated that he is not an American citizen and that he is "deportable." The Appellate Court rejected the state's argument, stating that, if the state's argument were accepted, it would render the requirements of § 54-1j (a) meaningless as applied to the facts of this case. The state next argued that the defendant knew of the immigration consequences of his pleas on the basis of the prosecutor's comment that the defendant was going to be deported. The Appellate Court rejected this argument as well, noting that the prosecutor's comment was made after the court's acceptance of the defendant's guilty pleas. Accordingly, the Appellate Court held that the defendant was entitled to withdraw his guilty pleas based on the trial court's failure to substantially comply with the requirements of § 54-1j (a). In this appeal by the state, the Supreme Court will review the Appellate Court's decision.