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Man not prejudiced by lawyer's failure to advise about deportation

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A defendant’s trial counsel was deficient by not advising his client about the risk of deportation following a guilty plea, but the defendant wasn’t prejudiced by the performance, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded.

In Heriberto Suarez v. State of Indiana, No. 02A05-1106-PC-325, Heriberto Suarez claimed the post-conviction court erred in denying his petition for post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective trial counsel. Suarez, who is from Mexico but has lived in the United States since the 1950s without becoming a resident, pleaded guilty to Class C felony child molesting. He faced a Class A felony molesting charge involving his young granddaughter. His attorney did not advise him that he could be deported following his guilty plea. His attorney, Patrick Arata, said he assumed Suarez was an American citizen so he did not ask about Suarez’s status.

Suarez testified he pleaded guilty to the Class C felony charge to receive a shorter sentence so he could take care of his blind wife, who is in poor health. He said he would have fought the Class A felony charge had he known that pleading guilty would subject him to possible deportation.

The appellate court noted that were Suarez to be deported, it would be difficult for him to provide for his wife, although he had a large family that could care for her in his absence. Suarez’s objective probability of success at trial was fairly low, and the benefit conferred upon him by his guilty plea was substantial. Instead of facing up to 50 years in prison, meaning he would have served 41 years, he faced a sentence between two and 8 years and actually received a four-year sentence.

While his attorney was deficient for not advising Suarez about possible deportation, he was not prejudiced by his attorney’s failure to notify him of the risk, the judges concluded.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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