Supreme Court decides that illegal immigrants have a Constitutional right to competent counsel that citizens do not always have

Filed under: Criminal Law, News Tags: by Steven F. Fairlie @ April 19, 2010

The United States Supreme Court recently decided the case of Padilla v. Kentucky, holding that attorneys must advise illegal immigrants of the possibility of deportation as a consequence of any guilty plea to a criminal charge. While I strongly agree that competent criminal defense counsel should always advise ALL possible consequences of a guilty plea, including a penalty as severe as deportation, I also strongly believe that other consequences like driving privileges, the right to maintain professional licensure, and the right to bear arms should have just as much protection. Under current Pennsylvania law, if an attorney fails to advise his client that a guilty will result in loss of the client’s driving license, ability to own or possess a firearm, or ability to practice the client’s profession, there is no remedy. I have dealt with many cases where individuals represented by attorneys dabbling in criminal law lost their driver’s license, their professional license, or their right to bear arms, without ever knowing that such loss was even a remote possibility as a result of the plea. In fact, in each of these cases the result complained of was certain to happen as a result of the plea and the attorney just didn’t know any better. It is time for Pennsylvania’s courts to demand the same quality of representation for the citizens of Pennsylvania as the United States Supreme Court has extended to illegal aliens.

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