The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Renwick, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant (Martinez) was entitled to a hearing on his CPL 440.10 motion to vacate his 2007 judgment of conviction. At the time defendant pled guilty the court warned him there could be immigration consequences, but defense counsel told him he wouldn’t have to worry about deportation if he stayed out of trouble while on probation. In fact, however, deportation was mandatory. Supreme Court denied the motion based in part on defendant’s motivation for it, i.e., the expansion of his taxi business in Massachusetts. The First Department noted that plaintiff’s current motivation for the motion to vacate is irrelevant. The matter was sent back for a hearing in front of a different judge:
In the context of a guilty plea, the ultimate question of prejudice is whether there was a reasonable probability that a reasonable person in a defendant’s circumstances would have gone to trial if given constitutionally adequate advice … . A defendant must convince the court that a decision to reject the plea bargain would have been rational … . In that regard, appropriate factors to be weighed include, among others, evidence of defendant’s incentive, at the time of his plea, to remain in the United States rather than his native country; his respective family and employment ties at the time of his plea, to the United States, as compared to his country of origin; the strength of the People’s case; and defendant’s sentencing exposure … . In answering the prejudice question, judges should be cognizant that a noncitizen defendant confronts a very different calculus than confronts a United States citizen … . For a noncitizen defendant, “preserving [his] right to remain in the United States may be more important to [him] than any jail sentence”… . Thus, a determination of whether it would be rational for a defendant to reject a plea offer “must take into account the particular circumstances informing the defendant’s desire to remain in the United States” … .
Significantly, on the record before this Court, there is reason to believe that Martinez would have given paramount importance to avoiding deportation, if he had known that it was more than a mere possibility, but was an unavoidable consequence of his plea to an aggravated felony. Indeed, evidence regarding Martinez’s background completely supports his current assertion that his main focus has been always to remain in the United States. This much is undisputed: his long history in the United States, his efforts to become a citizen, his family circumstances, and his gainful employment in Massachusetts, all signal his strong connection to, and desire to remain in, the United States … . People v Martinez, 2020 NY Slip Op 00252, First Dept 1-14-20