You’re charged with domestic assault and your attorney works out a deal in exchange for a guilty plea. But your attorney doesn’t tell you that by pleading guilty, you’ll no longer be able to possess a firearm in Minnesota. Can your guilty plea be invalidated because of ineffective counsel?
Thomas Sames was arrested in Shakopee in May 2010 during a fight with his wife at their home. He admitted to slapping and kicking her. Officers also found a small bag of marijuana.
Under a plea deal, the marijuana possession charge was dropped, and Sames was placed on probation for a year on assault charges. He didn’t show up at a domestic abuse assessment meeting and shortly thereafter he appealed his conviction on the basis of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.
Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the conviction citing, a 1970 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ” a defendant’s guilty plea is voluntary if the defendant is ‘fully aware of the direct consequences’ when entering the plea.” Not being able to buy a firearm is not a direct consequence, the Court of Appeals said. Instead, it is what’s known as a “collateral consequence.”
Mr. Sames claimed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that overturned a man’s conviction because he was not advised that pleading guilty would result in deportation is, essentially, the same thing (I wrote about a similar case in Minnesota last May).
The claim is not without logic, the Court of Appeals said, “but the (Supreme) Court did not clearly state that the direct-collateral distinction should not be applied in cases not involving the risk of deportation. In the absence of such a statement, we are obligated to follow the precedent that binds us on that issue.”