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People v. Valdez

Supreme Court of Illinois

September 22, 2016

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellant,
v.
JOSUE VALDEZ, Appellee.

          JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          BURKE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Josue Valdez, pleaded guilty to burglary in the circuit court of Bureau County and was sentenced to three years of probation. At the time of his plea, defendant was a citizen of the Dominican Republic and a resident alien of the United States based on his marriage to a United States citizen. During the plea hearing, the circuit court judge advised defendant that a burglary conviction "may have the consequences of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization under the laws of the United States." Defendant indicated he understood the potential consequences of a burglary conviction on his immigration status and still wished to plead guilty.

         ¶ 2 Defendant later filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging involuntariness and ineffective assistance of counsel. The circuit court denied defendant's motion. On appeal, defendant argued his attorney never warned him of the immigration consequences of pleading guilty to burglary, in violation of Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010). The appellate court agreed that defense counsel was ineffective and reversed the circuit court's judgment. 2015 IL App (3d) 120892, ¶¶ 23-24.

         ¶ 3 This court allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 315 (eff. July 1, 2013). For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

         ¶ 4 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 In 2012, defendant was charged with burglary (720 ILCS 5/19-1(a) (West 2012)) for entering a building with the intent to commit a theft, after he allegedly took a ring and earrings from an unoccupied house in Sheffield, Illinois. The circuit court appointed a public defender and a Spanish-speaking interpreter for defendant.

         ¶ 6 At a pretrial hearing, the parties informed the court that they had reached a negotiated plea agreement. Under the agreement, defendant would plead guilty to burglary, a Class 2 felony. He would be sentenced to four months in the county jail, with credit for time served, followed by three years' probation.

         ¶ 7 The State presented a factual basis for the plea, which stated that, if the cause were to proceed to trial, the State would present evidence that Keith Peterson discovered that his class ring and a pair of his wife's earrings were missing from their house, which had sat uninhabited for a month. Further evidence would show that defendant was in possession of the ring and earrings and that defendant admitted to entering the Petersons' house.

         ¶ 8 The court admonished defendant about the charge and potential penalties in accordance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402(a) (eff. July 1, 2012). The court then admonished defendant, pursuant to section 113-8 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/113-8 (West 2012)), that a burglary conviction "may have the consequences of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization under the laws of the United States." Defendant stated that he understood these admonishments and still wished to plead guilty. Later in the proceedings, the judge admonished defendant that pleading guilty to burglary meant he "could be deported from the country, " a decision that would be "up to the federal government." Defendant again acknowledged that he understood the potential immigration consequences and wanted to go forward with his guilty plea. The court accepted defendant's guilty plea and sentenced defendant as agreed to by the parties in the plea agreement.

         ¶ 9 Within 30 days of entering his plea, defendant filed a pro se motion to "open and vacate" his burglary conviction. The circuit court construed the motion as a motion to withdraw guilty plea and appointed new counsel for defendant. Defendant's new counsel filed a second amended motion to withdraw guilty plea and vacate sentence. The motion alleged, in part, that defense counsel failed to inform defendant of the consequences of his plea on his resident alien status.

         ¶ 10 Following a hearing, the circuit court denied defendant's motion to withdraw his plea. While the facts showed defense counsel never informed defendant that a burglary conviction might affect his immigration status, the court held any prejudice resulting from counsel's deficiency was cured by the court's own admonishments to defendant, i.e., that his burglary conviction "may have the consequences of deportation."

         ¶ 11 A divided appellate court vacated the circuit court's order and remanded for further proceedings. 2015 IL App (3d) 120892. The majority held that defense counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to inform defendant of the immigration consequences of his plea. According to the majority, under Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), counsel had a professional duty to inform defendant that deportation resulting from his burglary conviction was "presumptively mandatory" under federal law. 2015 IL App (3d) 120892, ¶¶ 22-24. Thus, counsel's failure to inform defendant of any immigration consequences prior to pleading guilty fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Id. Furthermore, the court held, defendant was prejudiced by ...


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