STATE v. MAURICIO PEDRAZA RAMOS, SC 18903
Judicial District of Fairfield at G.A. 2
Criminal; Whether a General Statutes § 54-1j Motion to Withdraw a Guilty Plea on the Ground that the Defendant was not Informed of the Deportation Consequences of his Plea Must be Filed Within Three Years of the Plea. The defendant is not a U.S. citizen. In 1999, he pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit forgery. At the time he entered his guilty plea, the defendant was not advised of the deportation consequences of his plea, and, after serving his sentence, he was deported to Colombia. The defendant subsequently reentered this country illegally and now faces pending charges in federal court. In 2009, the defendant moved to vacate his conviction of conspiracy to commit forgery and withdraw his guilty plea, citing General Statutes § 54-1j. Subsection (c) of that statute provides that, if a trial court fails to address a defendant personally and determine that he fully understands the possible deportation consequences of his guilty plea "and the defendant not later than three years after the acceptance of the plea shows [that the plea resulted in his deportation], the court, on the defendant's motion, shall vacate the judgment, and permit the defendant to withdraw the plea of guilty . . . and enter a plea of not guilty." The trial court denied the motion to vacate and the defendant appeals. On appeal, the defendant and the state disagree as to whether the three year time limitation expressed in § 54-1j (c) is jurisdictional and accordingly whether the trial court rightly entertained the defendant's motion to vacate when it was filed ten years after his guilty plea. The defendant claims that the statute is ambiguous and that the legislature intended that a trial court could entertain a "late" motion and grant relief under the statute on a finding of compelling circumstances. He claims he presented compelling circumstances justifying the granting of his motion. The state claims that, because the plain language of § 54-1j dictates that a motion to vacate must be filed within three years of the guilty plea, the trial court here lacked jurisdiction over the defendant's motion. Alternately, the state contends that the trial court correctly determined that the defendant failed to demonstrate any exceptional circumstances warranting the granting of his motion to vacate.