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. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise