People v. Lopez; B315320; set for publication on September 26, 2022 California Appellate 2nd District, Division 2

In People v. Lopez, Mr. Lopez pled guilty in 1998 to one count of 2nd-degree robbery for using a replica .45 caliber handgun to rob convenience stores.  He was sentenced to two years of state prison. On appeal, the California Appellate Court reversed the Los Angeles Superior Court’s decision to deny Penal Code section 1473.7 relief.  In its denial, it was held that Mr. Lopez’s declaration set forth a reasonable basis for his erroneous belief that he would suffer no adverse immigration consequences because he was a lawful permanent resident which he thought would shield him from any adverse consequences.  Further, the appellate court observed that Mr. Lopez’s lawyer never asked about his immigration status and never told him that a robbery conviction would subject him to mandatory deportation.  Even though Mr. Lopez’s attorney’s conduct did not equate to ineffective assistance of counsel pursuant to the Strickland analysis, it was recognized that his attorney’s conduct, amongst other things, contributed to Mr. Lopez’s misunderstanding causing him to suffer prejudice. The Appellate Court went on to recognize that prejudice means “demonstrating a reasonable probability that Mr. Lopez would have rejected the plea if he had correctly understood its actual and or potential immigration consequences. The Court of Appeal also considered the totality of circumstances noting that Mr. Lopez showed prejudice in his misunderstanding of the immigration consequences associated with this plea since he was young and inexperienced, with no prior record; he got no advice from his lawyer; he assumed his lawful permanent resident status would protect him; he had no ties to Mexico and strong ties to the US.