A Jamaican citizen and lawful permanent US resident was charged in federal court with trafficking in counterfeit goods.
His appointed criminal-defense lawyer immediately realized the need to research the deportation consequences of any plea. Counsel dutifully contacted an immigration lawyer. That lawyer recommended a plea under a subsection of the criminal-counterfeiting statute that she believed would not expose the client to deportation. The defendant entered the plea and was sentenced to prison for 364 days.
But the lawyers both relied on the wrong version of the statute.
The version that applied to the defendant subjected him to mandatory deportation. As a result, the defendant spent more time in ICE custody than he did serving his prison sentence. The Fourth Circuit finally granted him habeas relief on ineffective-assistance-of-counsel grounds, in an opinion issued last month.
Lesson learned: Check immigration consequences. Check again. Check again.