My client was arrested for DUI in 2004, a couple of years after arriving in this country from Mexico. My client was parked in a parking lot and had been asleep at the wheel when police arrived on the scene.
When he showed up to his arraignment date, he did not speak English, he did not have a Spanish language interpreter, and he was not represented by council. My client believed that if he simply pled guilty, paid his fines, and completed his courses, the matter would be closed and resolved without consequence. My client was mistaken.
Him and his wife recently attempted to apply for a type of legal status under prosecutorial discretion. His wife qualified to apply and is in the process of being approved. My client, however, was automatically disqualified from applying due to his 2004 DUI conviction.
He came to me and asked me to investigate whether he had a chance to “unwind” his guilty plea. I looked into the court file and found out that he had pled guilty without the assistance of a Spanish language interpreter and without an attorney. After explaining to him how difficult it is to succeed in making this type of motion, he decided to hire me because of how important the immigration consequences were to him.
I prepared the motion and argued it in court. Over the District Attorney’s objection, the judge decided to grant my motion because his plea was not knowingly and voluntarily given, when he was not represented by an attorney and did not have a Spanish language interpreter. Then the hard part started.
Although we were successful in the motion to vacate his judgment on the basis that he did not knowingly and voluntarily plead guilty, all that meant was that the case from 2004 started over again. The District Attorney offered a wet reckless on the day that we won the motion. We rejected the offer, pled not guilty, and set the matter for trial.
We announced ready when we returned for trial and the District Attorney decided to dismiss the case. Needless to say, my client is extremely happy with the result. He is now able to move forward with applying for legal immigration status along with his wife.