2002 No Action
2001 No Action
2000 No Action
1998 No Action
1995 No Action
June 25, 2002
TO THE HONORABLE, THE SENATE:
In accordance with the provisions of R.I. Gen. Laws § 43-1-4, I am transmitting herewith, with my disapproval, 02S-2619, As Amended, "An Act Relating to Criminal Procedure - Indictments, Information and Complaints."
This bill eliminates a sunset provision on a law that requires District and Superior Court judges to inform defendants that a plea of guilty or nolo contendere may have an effect on their immigration status. If the court fails to inform the defendant at the time of plea, the defendant is "entitled" to have the plea vacated. The bill is set to expire on January 15,2003.
The underlying law went into effect over my veto in 1999 - a veto which was requested by both the Attorney General and the State Police. It was bad public policy then and continues to be so now. I have no objection to requiring judges to inform defendants of the potential of their plea on their immigration status. I also have no objection to ensuring that a defendant understands the effect of that plea at time it is made. Both requirements are fair.
I have strong objection, however, to automatically entitling a defendant to have his plea vacated if a judge is unaware of the defendant's immigration status or if a judge simply neglects to inform the defendant of the potential effect of the defendant's plea on immigration status even if the defendant obtained actual knowledge from another source. Such actual knowledge could come from a written plea agreement, a colloquy, his attorney or any other source. Under this law, a defendant can knowingly plead to a charge, understand the ramification, but nonetheless be entitled to have the plea vacated if the judge, for whatever reason, fails to place this notification on the record. This framework serves no legitimate law enforcement policy.
It should be up to a court to determine at a hearing, based upon normal standards for post-conviction relief, whether the defendant possessed knowledge from any source prior to his plea of the effect of the plea. If a defendant did possess such knowledge, a mandatory plea vacation cannot be justified. As such, this law should sunset.
For the foregoing reasons, I disapprove of this legislation and respectfully urge your support of this veto.