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Name: People v. Mejia
Case #: G056042
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/26/2019

Under the revisions to Penal Code section 1473.7, a defendant need not show ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) in order to invalidate a conviction due to prejudicial error affecting the defendant’s ability to understand the immigration consequences of his plea. In 1994 Mejia pleaded guilty to drug crimes. He now faces deportation because of those convictions. In 2017 he filed a motion to vacate his convictions, which was denied because he did not prove an IAC claim. He appealed. Held: Reversed. In January 2017 a new law became effective allowing a person who is no longer in custody to file a motion to vacate a conviction because it is legally invalid due to prejudicial error damaging the defendant’s ability to understand and accept the adverse immigration consequences of the plea (Pen. Code, § 1473.7, subd. (a)). Courts interpreted this law to mean a defendant had to prove IAC to prevail on the motion. Effective January 1, 2019, the section was amended to provide that a finding of IAC is not a necessary prerequisite. Now, in order to establish a “prejudicial error” under the statute, the moving party need only show that (1) he did not meaningfully understand or knowingly accept the actual or potential adverse immigration consequences of the plea, and (2) had he understood the immigration consequences it is reasonably probable he would have attempted to defend against the charges. Mejia met his burden of proof under the statute.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: