Where criminal convictions serve to bar clients from forms of relief, including adjustment of status or naturalization, an individual may want to consider filing a motion for post-conviction relief (RI terminology) or motion to vacate plea or motion to set aside plea (MA terminology). These motions are typically based upon an argument that the individual did not admit guilt voluntarily or knowingly for a variety of reasons.
If the state court did not provide the individual with counsel, or if the client was not aware of the factual basis for a plea, a state court may agree that the plea did not conform with state statute and constitutional law. Particularly significant, if the attorney of a foreign-born client did not advise the person of the specific immigration consequences of pleading guilty, the state court may agree to vacate the plea or grant post-conviction relief. In March of 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court found in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010) that defense attorneys are required under the Sixth Amendment to advise their noncitizen clients of potential immigration consequences prior to resolving criminal cases. Failure to properly advise noncitizen clients of immigration consequences thus constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel. In certain instances, arguments based upon Padilla and subsequent cases can be the grounds for a grant of post-conviction relief or order to vacate a conviction.
Attorney Claudia Grégoire has handled numerous motions to vacate pleas with success. With criminal convictions vacated, Immigration Judges have agreed to terminate removal proceedings, thereby allowing clients to remain with their families in the U.S.