Vermont v. MendezAnnotate this Case
Defendant was a citizen of the Dominican Republic who lived and worked legally in Massachusetts as a permanent resident of the United States. In June 2013, he pleaded guilty to one charge of felony domestic assault stemming from a May 2013 incident in which he attempted to strangle his girlfriend at her home in Rutland. Defendant signed a written plea agreement prior to a change-of-plea hearing. Shortly after defendant was released on probation, the federal government issued a detainer to place him into deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence. Then, in late October 2013, Rutland police responded to two calls in which defendant’s girlfriend alleged that defendant battered or otherwise assaulted her. As a result of the latter two incidents, in August 2014 defendant pleaded guilty both to a charge of violation of probation and to a second, misdemeanor charge of domestic assault. Again, defendant signed a written plea agreement prior to the change-of-plea hearing. The language of this agreement concerning the possible collateral consequences of a conviction on his immigration status was identical to that of the prior written agreement. In January 2015, defendant filed a motion to withdraw both of his guilty pleas on the basis that the court had not properly advised him that deportation was a risk of pleading guilty. The court denied this motion, finding that there was no substantive difference between what the court advised defendant and specifically telling him that he could be “deported.” Defendant appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas in his two domestic assault cases. Defendant argued that the court erred by not using the term “deportation” or “clearly equivalent language” to advise him that deportation was a possible consequence of pleading guilty. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed.