Must Court Explain Immigration Consequences of a Guilty Plea to the Defendant ?

In People v. Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d 292, 887 N.E.2d 564, 320 Ill. Dec. 420 (2008), the second division of the First District affirmed the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion to vacate his guilty plea, holding that section 113-8 of the Criminal Code was directory. In reaching this holding, the court first turned to the language of the statute, which it acknowledged is "the best evidence of legislative intent." Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d at 295. The court noted that, although the legislature's use of the word "shall" generally indicates a mandatory reading, it "does not control the outcome and is not determinative." Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d at 295. Citing People v. Robinson, 217 Ill. 2d 43, 53, 838 N.E.2d 930, 298 Ill. Dec. 37 (2005), the court further noted that, when the legislature prescribes a consequence for the failure to obey its provision, it is very strong evidence that the legislature intended a mandatory reading. Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d at 295. Section 113-8 does not provide a consequence in the event a trial court fails to admonish a defendant of the immigration consequences of a guilty plea. As a result, the court found that the meaning of the word "'shall'" was "unclear," and it turned to the legislative history of section 113--8 for further guidance. Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d at 296. The Bilelegne court pointed out that, "as originally proposed by the Illinois General Assembly, section 113-8 provided that, where the deportation admonishment was not given, the court was required to vacate the defendant's plea of guilty if the defendant demonstrated to the court's satisfaction that the guilty plea may have immigration consequences." Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d at 296. However, this portion of the original bill was deleted. at the third reading of the bill, Senator Silverstein, one of its sponsors, stated: "'We gutted the bill. This will just be an advisement by the court.'" Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d at 296, quoting 93d Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, March 19, 2003, at 4 (statements of Senator Silverstein). The court concluded that, based on the elimination of the penalty for noncompliance and the sponsor's statement that the admonishment was an "'advisement,'" the legislature did not intend that the giving of the admonishment was mandatory. Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d at 296. One justice dissented, looking to "the purpose of the law and the evils it was intended to remedy." Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d at 297 (Hall, J., dissenting). The dissent pointed to the remarks of Representative Delgado made prior to the vote in the House of Representatives. Representative Delgado stated that, "'under current law, Illinois Courts are not required to inform a noncitizen defendant pleading guilty to a misdemeanor or felony that it may affect his or her INS status. An immigrant's INS status can or may be affected in numerous, very complex ways by the entry of a guilty plea to a criminal charge.'" Bilelegne, 381 Ill. App. 3d at 298 (Hall, J., dissenting), quoting 93d Ill. Gen. Assem., House Proceedings, May 7, 2003, at 72-73 (statements of Representative Delgado). According to the dissent, construing section 113-8 of the Criminal Code as directory rather than mandatory defeats the very purpose of the statute.