Collateral No More


The effects of Supreme Court’s decision in Padilla v. Kentucky continue to be felt in other areas of criminal procedure law.  In Pridham v. Commonwealth, the Court of Appeals of Kentucky ruled that postconviction relief would be warranted where an attorney provides “gross misadvice” to a client concerning parole eligibility, relying almost exclusively on Padilla.  In doing so, the Pridham court rejected the notion, advanced by KY authorities, that Padilla only applied to situations involving deportation:

The Commonwealth argues that the unique nature of deportation limits the Padilla decision to only misadvice concerning the risk of deportation. However, the Court in Padilla repeatedly cited with approval to its decision in Hill, a case dealing with the Strickland standards in the context of misadvice regarding parole eligibility. Moreover, the factors relied upon in the deportation context apply with equal vigor to the circumstances of gross misadvice about parole eligibility. Parole eligibility involves a foreseeable, material consequence of the guilty plea that is “intimately related to the criminal process” and is an “automatic result” following certain criminal convictions. Id. at —-, 130 S.Ct. at 1478, 1486. The varying degrees of eligibility enumerated by the General Assembly in KRS 439.3401 are “succinct, clear and explicit.” KRS 439.3401 provides that “any person who has been convicted of or pled guilty to the commission of ․ [a] Class A felony”․ is considered a “violent offender” for the purposes of the parole statute. KRS 439.3401. The statute further states that, “[a] violent offender who has been convicted of ․ a Class A felony with a sentence of a term of years ․ shall not be released on probation or parole until he has served at least eighty-five percent (85%) of the sentence imposed.” KRS 439.3401(3). Even though Pridham’s Class A felony conviction (Manufacturing methamphetamine, 2nd offense) would not be regarded by most as a violent offense, all Class A felonies are treated equally for the purposes of parole eligibility. The parole classification system is automatic upon conviction or guilty plea and permanently affects a defendant’s minimum term of imprisonment.

While not particularly groundbreaking in terms of strengthening the rights of the accused – after all, this is a gross misadvice case – the decision is significant in that its reasoning is based almost entirely on Padilla and its more general, non-deportation related proposition that the Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel is not limited to the confines of a courtroom, thus giving new meaning to the attorney as counselor and advisor.

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