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Cal. Sup. Ct. on Immigration Consequences: People v. Espinoza

January 26, 2023 (3 min read)

People v. Espinoza

"In support of his third motion, before us now, Espinoza attached a declaration describing his biographical history, which includes more than 20 years living in the United States prior to conviction; a declaration from an immigration attorney explaining that Espinoza’s convictions place him in danger of losing his permanent residence, being deported, and being barred from reentering the United States, and that there were immigration-safe alternatives his counsel could have pursued; and 30 letters from family, friends, community members, clients, and employers documenting his family ties, community connections, and work history. The trial court denied his motion, as it had his previous two. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that Espinoza had not adequately corroborated his claim that immigration consequences were a paramount concern at the time of his plea. We granted review to consider what constitutes a sufficient showing of prejudicial error within the meaning of section 1473.7. We limited the issue before us to the following: “Did the Court of Appeal err in ruling that defendant failed to adequately corroborate his claim that immigration consequences were a paramount concern and thus that he could not demonstrate prejudice within the meaning of Penal Code section 1473.7?” We hold that Espinoza has made the requisite showing and accordingly reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal. ... [A] defendant’s deep and long-standing ties to the United States are among the totality of circumstances that can support an inference that immigration consequences were of paramount concern at the time of the defendant’s guilty plea. Espinoza has demonstrated his ties to the United States, and those ties weigh in favor of a finding of prejudicial error. ... Having considered the totality of the circumstances here, we conclude that Espinoza has shown a reasonable probability that he would have rejected the plea and either gone to trial or sought a different, immigration-safe bargain if he had understood the consequences of the plea. ... We also find it significant that the Attorney General agrees Espinoza is entitled to relief. Although we are not required to accept this concession, it suggests that any remand for further development of the record will serve only to delay the relief to which both parties now agree Espinoza is entitled. While a remand for reconsideration and the development of the record may be advisable in other cases, we are satisfied that the evidence here establishes a reasonable probability that Espinoza would have rejected the plea if he had understood its immigration consequences. We reverse the judgment and remand the case to the Court of Appeal with directions to remand the case to the trial court for entry of an order granting Espinoza’s section 1473.7 motion to vacate his conviction."

[Hats way off to Sanger Swysen & Dunkle, Stephen K. Dunkle and Sarah S. Sanger for Defendant and Appellant. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Kahn A. Scolnick, Daniel R. Adler, Emily R. Sauer, Patrick J. Fuster and Matt Aidan Getz for Alyssa Bell, Reuven Cohen, Ingrid V. Eagly, Gilbert Garcetti, Meline Mkrtichian, Ronald J. Nessim, Gabriel Pardo and Jennifer Resnik as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant. Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Jayashri Srikantiah and Yulie Landan for Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, Centro Legal de la Raza, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Dolores Street Community Services, Dreamer Fund, Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, Immigrant Legal Defense, Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Open Immigration Legal Services, Organization for the Legal Advancement of Raza, Public Counsel, San Francisco Office of the Public Defender, San Joaquin College of Law New American Legal Clinic, Santa Barbara County Immigrant Legal Defense Center, Silicon Valley DeBug, Stand Together Contra Costa, Tahirih Justice Center, University of California Davis Immigration Law Clinic, University of California Irvine Criminal Justice Clinic and University of California Irvine Immigrant Rights Clinic as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant!]