Lee v. US: Avoid Deportation – Post Conviction Attorney Los Angeles

January 24, 2023

This is a 2017 case from the Supreme Court by Judge Roberts on the issue of prejudice. Judge Thomas and Alito dissented. (137 S.Ct.1958 (2017)).

Here are relevant facts:

  1. Lee was 13 when he moved from Korea to the US.
  2. Lee lived in the US for 35 years
  3. Lee was a businessman who ran a Chinese Restaurant.
  4. During the arrest, 88 ecstasy pills, 3 Valium pills, $32,432 in cash, and a loaded rifle were found.

Procedurally:

  1. Lee filed a motion to withdraw a plea under 28 USC 2255 to vacate his conviction and sentence for ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the 6th amendment to the US Constitution. A motion under 28 US 2255 is a federal equivalent of a California Motion to Withdraw a Guilty Plea under California Penal Code 1473.7
    • This motion unfortunately has to be filed within 1 year of the guilty plea, unlike California motion under PC 1473.7 which has to be filed within “reasonable time” after the final order of deportation.
  2. The Trial (District) Court found that Lee’s counsel was ineffective within the 6th amendment. But the trial court denied the motion because it determined that Lee was not prejudiced. The trial court considered prejudice in terms of rational decision, to wit, would Lee go to trial in light of evidence? The Trial court determined “no” because if Lee would have gone to trial, he would be convicted and probably sentenced to a higher jail sentence, and then deported after he served his jail sentence. So the trial court decided that Lee was not prejudiced by the wrongful advice of his counsel.
  3. Lee appealed and the Federal Appellate court affirmed the District’s court denial of the motion.
  4. Lee appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court reversed, holding:

“When … consequences… ( of going to trial and losing)… are similarly dire, even small change of success at trial may look attractive”

“For Lee, deportation after some time in prison was not meaningfully different from deportation after somewhat less time; he says he accordingly would have rejected any plea leading to deportation in favor of throwing a “Hail Mary” at trial. “

What is interesting about Lee v. US case is that the court of appeal decided that Lee had no defense for his case (“not even a weak one”).

Therefore, not having any defense is not a bar to a postconviction motion to withdraw a guilty plea in Los Angeles. The Supreme Court thus in 2017 held that Defendants no longer have to prove the existence of a defense for post-conviction relief in Los Angeles. Here is a quote from the Supreme Court’s opinion

“…we do not ask whether had he gone to trial, the result of that trial “would have been different” than the result of the plea bargain… We instead consider whether the defendant was prejudiced by the “denial of entire judicial proceeding… to which he had a right”.

If you are facing deportation from the United State based on your criminal record, call Post Conviction Attorney Los Angeles to get a free consultation. Los Angeles Post Conviction relief attorney can explain to you what can we do to help you win your deportation case and remain in the US.

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