People v. Bautista – Case Brief Summary (California)

In People v. Bautista (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 229, the defendant argued that his counsel was ineffective for negotiating a plea to an "aggravated felony," which carried immigration consequences, including deportation, rather than negotiating a plea to a "non-aggravated" offense. In his petition for writ of habeas corpus, the defendant provided a declaration from trial counsel that the focus of proceedings had been to quash the search warrant, and to suppress the evidence gathered; when that strategy failed, counsel sought a plea bargain with the least amount of prison time. The attorney knew that the defendant was an immigrant with a green card, and he knew that the charge was a deportable offense. He did advise the defendant affirmatively that he "'would be deported'" as a result of the conviction, but he did not pursue a plea to a different offense, which might carry a greater prison sentence, but which would not be subject to deportation. He did not pursue such a plan, he averred, because it simply did not occur to him. (Id. at pp. 237-238.)

The court held that the trial attorney's conduct may have fallen below the standard of practice, because he had failed to research the possibilities of different immigration consequences in advising the defendant and selecting the course of action most beneficial to the defendant's wishes. The court therefore issued an order to show cause on the habeas corpus petition, to take evidence and resolve factual issues surrounding the legal advice which had been given to the defendant at the time of his plea.