The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that an immigrant's legal right to effective counsel was violated when his attorney mistakenly told him he could plead guilty to drug charges without being deported.
The 7-2 decision was a victory for Jose Padilla, a native of Honduras who has lived in the United States for more than 40 years as a legal permanent resident. Padilla, a Vietnam War veteran, never became a U.S. citizen.
Immigrant rights advocates have said the ruling could potentially affect thousands of immigrants every year.
Padilla pleaded guilty in 2002 to marijuana trafficking charges in Kentucky after his attorney mistakenly assured him he would not face deportation. The federal government then began proceedings to deport Padilla because drug trafficking was one of the crimes which results in mandatory deportation.
Padilla, a truck driver, sought to withdraw his guilty plea and he claimed ineffective assistance of counsel that violated his constitutional rights.
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled against Padilla. It said that criminal lawyers have no duty to advise their clients about all possible consequences of a guilty plea, including immigration issues like deportation.