A citizen of Ecuador who has lived in the U.S. since he was one year old was unable to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals in separate cases that his counsel’s failure to inform him of the possible deportation consequences of pleading guilty to a crime should result in post-conviction relief.
In 1997, Alex Carrillo pleaded guilty to Class D felony possession of cocaine pursuant to a plea agreement for a lesser sentence that resulted in the judge entering a conviction of Class A misdemeanor possession. In 2006, Carrillo pleaded guilty to Class D felony resisting law enforcement and Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and the felony was entered as a Class A misdemeanor by the judge.
In April 2011, Carrillo was detained by federal immigration authorities and now faces deportation proceedings based upon his resisting law enforcement and possession of cocaine convictions.
In his two appeals before the COA, he claimed that his guilty plea counsel failed to provide effective assistance of counsel by not telling him that pleading guilty could result in deportation. In the case stemming from his 1997 conviction, Alex Carrillo v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1108-PC-437, the post-conviction court found Carrillo failed to establish prejudice from his counsel’s failure to advise. In Alex Carrillo v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1112-PC-1209, based on the 2006 conviction, the post-conviction court found Carrillo established prejudice but failed to establish that his counsel’s failure to advise constituted ineffective assistance because his attorney didn’t know that Carrillo wasn’t a U.S. citizen.
In his appeal from the 1997 case, Carrillo argued that he lived in the United States for 30 years at the time of his guilty plea and that he has a wife, five children and other relatives that live in this country. But he did not bring up this information in his 1997 hearing. The judges also found that the state had a very strong case against Carrillo for drug possession and he benefited from pleading guilty. Therefore, he failed to show there is a reasonable probability but for his counsel’s failure to advise that he wouldn’t have pleaded guilty, Judge Terry Crone wrote.
In the 2006 case, the judges focused on whether Carrillo’s attorney’s performance was deficient because he didn’t inform his client that the guilty plea could have adverse immigration consequences. Carrillo argued that he wasn’t required to show that his attorney knew he wasn’t a citizen or establish that the norm at the time of his hearing was for the attorney to make such an inquiry.
Relying on Segura v. State, 749 N.E.2d 496, 500 (Ind. 2001), the judges pointed out that Carrillo’s attorney did not know that he was not a citizen and that the professional norms at the time he pleaded guilty in 2006 did not include requiring attorneys to ask every client whether he or she is a U.S. citizen, Crone wrote. Beginning with the 2009 edition of the Indiana Criminal Benchbook, trial judges are now to inquire as to whether a defendant is a U.S. citizen and ask whether the possibility of deportation has been discussed with counsel.
The judges found Carrillo’s attorney did not provide deficient performance because he had no reason to suspect Carrillo wasn’t born in the U.S.