Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
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O.C., a 14-year-old refugee from Guatemala, asked the superior court to make the required Special immigrant juvenile findings, a necessary first step under the federal immigration law that allowed abandoned, unaccompanied minors living in the United States to apply for status as permanent legal residents (SIJ findings). A mandatory Judicial Council form was created for this purpose. Items 4(b), 5, and 6 on the form required the superior court to detail its findings, citing California law. The Court of Appeal determined the superior court failed to cite California statutory or case law in items 4(b) and 6, and did not check the box in item 5 to indicate O.C. could not reunify with her mother, who was deceased. Treating O.C.'s appeal as a petition for a writ of mandate, the Court of Appeal granted the petition and ordered the probate court to vacate its SIJ findings and issue new findings for items 4(b) and 6 of the mandatory Judicial Council form baed on state law, as proposed by O.C. and in compliance with federal rules and regulations. View "O.C. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Robert Vivar pled guilty to possession of materials with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine. Defendant was placed on probation for three years, and as a condition of probation was to serve one year in county jail. He also received a referral to the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) program. Shortly after his release, defendant was removed from the country as a consequence of his plea. Over a decade later, defendant filed a motion to vacate his conviction pursuant to Penal Code section 1473.7. The trial court denied defendant’s motion. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred in denying his motion to vacate his guilty plea because his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate and advise defendant of the immigration consequences of his plea and for failing to defend or mitigate the judgment. Defendant also argued that his plea must be vacated because it was legally invalid. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Vivar" on Justia Law

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Defendant Sara Salcido was in the business of providing immigration services — typically, obtaining visas for her clients that would allow them to stay in the United States legally. Defendant failed to comply with the consumer protection requirements outlined in the Immigration Consultant Act, and was ultimately convicted on one count of misdemeanor unlawfully engaging in the business of an immigration consultant. The State argued, however, that each time defendant took money from a client in exchange for providing immigration services, she was committing theft by false pretenses, because she was not a legally qualified immigration consultant under state law. The trial court agreed; thus, it also convicted her on six counts of grand theft, and two counts of petty theft. It dismissed two additional counts of grand theft as time-barred. Defendant was placed on probation for five years. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal held federal law did not preempt the application of the Act to defendant. In the unpublished portion, the Court held one of defendant’s probation conditions had to be stricken. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed as modified. View "California v. Salcido" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and obtained a $35,000 bond for his release from custody. The surety promised to assure Defendant’s appearance for arraignment. The contract stated that, if Defendant left the jurisdiction, he would “voluntarily return” and “waive extradition.” On the day of the arraignment, Defendant's indemnitor informed the surety Defendant told her he was in Mexico. The court forfeited the bail bond. Under Penal Code 1305(c), the court was required to vacate the forfeiture if Defendant appeared in court, either voluntarily or in custody, within 180 days. The court extended the appearance period by six months. The surety then moved to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bond or to toll or extend time, arguing that Defendant was located in Mexico and “subject to “constructive custody,” having obtained a Mexican passport and applied for a U.S. visa. The surety contended the People were imposing improper conditions, including a requirement that the surety pay for extradition ($50,000). The surety argued Defendant was in effect detained as a result of immigration laws that precluded his reentry. The People argued they could not extradite Defendant on a misdemeanor charge and that he was not detained but left the country voluntarily. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment against the surety, rejecting an argument that Defendant suffered from a “temporary disability” under Penal Code 1305(e), View "People v. The North River Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 2005, defendant-appellant Jorge Rodriguez pled guilty to unlawful intercourse by a person over 21 under Penal Code1 section 261.5(d). Defendant, as a person over 21, admitted to having sex with a person under the age of 16. The trial court sentenced defendant to formal probation for 36 months. Days later, defendant was taken into custody by the Immigration and Naturalization Service pending resolution by an immigration judge whether defendant would be removed from the United States. That same year, defendant was ordered removed. In 2007, defendant admitted to violating his probation. The trial court added 60 days to defendant’s sentence, to be served on a work release program to commence December 14, 2007, and reinstated defendant’s probation. On September 10, 2008, defendant admitted a violation of a term of his probation requiring defendant to report to probation. The court then reinstated probation. In 2016, filed a petition for dismissal under Penal Code section 1203.4, and a petition for a reduction of his felony conviction to a misdemeanor under section 17(b). As mitigation, defendant provided in his petition that he married the victim and had two children with her. Moreover, defendant noted that both violations of probation occurred because he was in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was deported so he was unable to meet his probation officer or check in for his weekend custody obligation. Both motions were denied, and defendant appealed. On January 1, 2017, Penal Code section 1473.7 went into effect. Among other things, section 1473.7 permitted a defendant to challenge a conviction based on a guilty plea where prejudicial error affected the defendant’s ability to understand the immigration consequences of the plea. On July 10, 2017, following the filing of the Court of APpeal's opinion in defendant’s first appeal, defendant, in pro. per., filed a motion to vacate his conviction under section 1473.7. The trial court denied defendant’s motion without defendant or defense counsel present. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendant's section 1473.3 motion and reversed. View "California v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Chen was charged with cultivating marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, and theft of services. The arraignment form stated, “If you are not a United States citizen, a plea of Guilty or No Contest could result in your deportation, exclusion from admission to this country, or denial of naturalization.” Chen signed the form, attesting she understood it; her court interpreter also signed, certifying it had been translated. Chen pleaded no contest to cultivation of marijuana. On her plea form Chen initialed the statement regarding the immigration consequences. Her interpreter certified it was translated to Chen. At the hearing, through an interpreter, the court asked Chen whether the interpreter read the form, whether Chen understood, and whether she had time to discuss it with her attorney. Chen responded, “Yes.” Years later, Chen moved to vacate her plea and conviction under Penal Code 1473.7 and 1016.5, arguing her attorney failed to properly advise her of the immigration consequences and that she is a Permanent Resident and the primary caretaker for her parents. She asserted that she had no knowledge of her brother's marijuana grow operation but that her attorney told her she would go to jail unless she took a plea bargain. The district attorney cited evidence of Chen’s involvement in the marijuana operation. Chen’s attorney testified that he talked to Chen about her immigration status. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of relief. View "People v. Chen" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant and Jordanian citizen Kamal Abdul Fryhaat had been living in the United States for over 30 years. In 2001, he pleaded guilty to various drug-related offenses and admitted to having suffered a prior prison term. In exchange, defendant was released on his own recognizance on various terms and conditions. Defendant subsequently violated his release terms and was sentenced to six years eight months in state prison. Approximately 17 years later, in 2018, as he was facing deportation proceedings, defendant filed a motion to vacate his guilty plea pursuant to Penal Code section 1473.7, arguing his conviction was legally invalid and not knowingly and intelligently made because neither his trial counsel nor the court advised him about the immigration consequences of his guilty plea. The trial court summarily denied defendant’s motion, and defendant appealed. On appeal, he argued the trial court erred in denying his motion to vacate his conviction because the court summarily denied his motion without a hearing, without his presence, and without appointed counsel in violation of section 1473.7. He therefore requested the matter be remanded for a hearing consistent with the provisions of section 1473.7. The State conceded defendant was partially correct, and that the matter must be remanded. Specifically, the State asserted defendant was entitled to a hearing, but as recent amendments to section 1473.7 made clear, defendant did not have a right to appointed counsel and his presence could adequately be protected by use of telephonic or videoconference services. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed the order denying defendant’s motion to vacate his conviction and remanded with instructions to the trial court to conduct a hearing pursuant to section 1473.7, evaluate defendant’s request for appointed counsel, and to consider the motion on its merits. View "California v. Fryhaat" on Justia Law

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Defendant Sara Salcido provided immigration services. Under the Immigration Consultant Act (Act), with certain exceptions, it is illegal for a person to act as an “immigration consultant” (as defined in the Act) unless he or she has complied with a host of consumer protection requirements, such as passing a background check and filing a bond. Defendant failed to comply with these. As a result, defendant was convicted on one count of misdemeanor unlawfully engaging in the business of an immigration consultant. The State argued, however, that each time defendant took money from a client in exchange for providing immigration services, she was committing theft by false pretenses, because she was not a legally qualified immigration consultant under state law. The trial court agreed; thus, it also convicted her on six counts of grand theft, and two counts of petty theft. It dismissed two additional counts of grand theft as time-barred. Defendant was placed on probation for five years. Defendant contended the Act was preempted by federal law. She demurred to the complaint on this ground. The Court of Appeal determined federal law did not preempt the application of the Act to defendant. View "California v. Salcido" on Justia Law

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In March 2003, Raul Novoa pled guilty to possession of methamphetamine for sale. The trial court sentenced him to 180 days in county jail and three years' probation. In 2012, the United States began deportation proceedings against Novoa, which were ongoing at the time of this opinion. In May 2017, Novoa successfully moved to vacate his 2003 conviction per Penal Code section 1473.7. The State appealed, arguing the trial court erred by: (1) holding Novoa's trial counsel to a duty the law did not require; and (2) finding Novoa suffered prejudice. In support of its position, the State contended the superior court's factual findings were not supported by substantial evidence. Moreover, the State argued laches prohibited Novoa's motion. The Court of Appeal found the State’s arguments were without merit and thus affirmed the superior court. View "California v. Novoa" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal granted Reyna Hernandez’s petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking to have her conviction for possession of methamphetamine for the purpose of sale vacated and the opportunity to withdraw her guilty plea. The record both showed her appointed trial counsel failed to advise her before she entered her guilty plea that her plea would subject her to mandatory deportation, and contained evidence, including contemporaneous objective evidence, she would not have entered her guilty plea had she been so advised. The Court of Appeal published this opinion because it discussed evidence establishing ineffective assistance of counsel, including prejudice, for failure to advise of mandatory deportation consequences attached to a guilty plea. View "In re Hernandez" on Justia Law