Torrance, Felony Possession Conviction (11377(a)) Vacated
Our client was not a U.S. citizen, but he had been in the United States for the last seventeen years (since age two). He had a travel visa from Mexico to the United States, but it had recently expired. At the same time his visa expired, one of his grandparents died and the chaos surrounding the death prevented him getting the help from his parents to renew the visa.
Three days after being arrested, he entered a no contest plea to violating Health & Safety Code § 11377(a) and was placed on Proposition 36 (delayed entry of judgment) with one year of formal probation. Prior to entering his plea, he never discussed his immigration status with anyone and did not know there were any immigration consequences from this plea, which under immigration law was considered a conviction, although in court it was not.
Prior to and at the time he entered his plea, he did not know he could be deported because of this conviction. After all, he has previously been placed on a PC 1000 for an almost identical violation and there were no immigration consequences to him yet. He also had been allowed to stay in the U.S. on the travel visa, so when the judge read the immigration warnings in court, he regarded such warnings as applying to an illegal alien, which he was not.
Moreover, our client was too intimidated by his private counsel (not Greg Hill & Associates), the judge and the Torrance District Attorney to ask any of them to answer any questions he might have had.
At the time he entered his plea, he was never advised that a conviction (under immigration law) for possession of methamphetamine would have the consequences to him personally of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization pursuant to the laws of the United States.
He would not have agreed to enter into a plea had he known such a conviction (under immigration law) would someday bar him from becoming a citizen of the United States. At the time of entering the plea, his only concern was avoiding time in custody. He now wished to become a U.S. citizen, or at least become a permanent resident with green card status.
So, after he went to an immigration attorney in 2021 and was told he could not become a U.S. citizen or even a permanent resident, he called Greg Hill & Associates and spoke with Greg.
Greg asked him about his discussions with his attorney prior to entering his plea and being placed on Prop 36. The client explained everything described above and said that had he known then that the no contest plea to violating 11377(a) would lead to the immigration consequences he now faces, he would have asked his attorney to seek an alternative plea bargain that avoided such consequences.
After all, he had spent the last seventeen years of his life in the United States and had developed many friendships and other relationships that he did not want to end. He did not know anyone in Mexico. No one from his family lived in Mexico anymore.
The client explained that he was now self-employed for the last four years as an auto mechanic / technician. His employment helps support himself and his family, but he hoped to work for an established company in the future because his income varies considerably and his family needed health insurance. His wife was studying to become a nurse. Moreover, both of the couple’s children were both U.S. citizens.
Greg then explained how the law is applied under a motion to vacate a conviction under Penal Code § 1473.7(a)(1) and warned that the judges in Torrance regard such motions with skepticism and were generally quite strict in applying the law when it applied to preserve the conviction.
The client nonetheless hired Greg Hill & Associates and our office prepared the motion to vacate, filed it and served it.
The judge assigned to the case was perhaps the most demanding judge in the courthouse. The motion was heard over five court hearings and at one point, the judge demanded a written brief on whether a judge even had jurisdiction over a case that had been dismissed.
Greg filed a supplemental brief listing ten contexts when a judge had such jurisdiction.