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Student Project: Padilla v. Kentucky - Immigration Consequences of a Conviction: Home

This research guide provides primary and secondary sources pertaining to the United States Supreme Court decision Padilla v. Kentucky and its aftermath.


This guide will facilitate legal research regarding the Padilla v. Kentucky decision, its meaning, implications, and aftermath, by using: 

  • Landmark Supreme Court Cases
  • Oral Arguments
  • Statutes and Regulations 
  • Secondary Sources 
  • Current Awareness 


Related Search Terms

Below are search terms relevant to this guide and further research on Padilla v. Kentucky:

  • Padilla v. Kentucky 
  • Chaidez v. United States
  • Immigration and Conviction
  • Criminal Law and Immigration
  • Padilla v. Kentucky Retroactive

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History of U.S. Immigration Laws

Immigration Consequences of a Conviction

Criminal convictions often have devastating immigration consequences for noncitizens in the United States. Noncitizen defendants who plead guilty to deportable offenses face the immigration consequence of deportation with no opportunity to seek relief from removal. However, Congress’s progressive steps to impose harsher and harsher consequences on noncitizens convicted of crimes have not gone unnoticed; attorney practices, professional standards, and even laws in some states have evolved to offer basic protections to noncitizen defendants. For example, the American Bar Association recommends, and many states’ laws require, that criminal trial judges warn defendants about possible immigration consequences of guilty pleas. Nevertheless, federal law did not provide for such protections for noncitizen defendants until the Supreme Court’s ("the Court") 2010 decision in Padilla v. KentuckyPadilla declared that the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel encompasses a noncitizen defendant’s right to be warned by his or her criminal defense attorney of the potential immigration consequences of accepting a guilty plea. 

Padilla's Retroactivity

Despite the Court's decision in Padilla, it failed to articulate a comprehensive framework for applying Padilla, and lower courts have reached contradictory conclusions about its application in various situations, including retroactivity. In 2011, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court adopted the minority view, applying Padilla retroactively to convictions that were final before the Court’s decision. In 2013, however, the Court sided with the majority, holding in Chaidez v. United States that Padilla does not apply retroactively. The Court came to this conclusion because of Teague v. Lane, which mandates that “new” constitutional rules, or rules that were not “dictated by precedent” when announced, will only apply retroactively when one of two narrow exceptions apply. The Court in Chaidez mandated prospective application of Padilla in federal courts, holding that Padilla announced a new rule for which there was no exception.

Despite the Court’s holding, the question of Padilla's retroactivity is not definitively settled, as states are able to provide broader remedies for constitutional violations than federal law requires. In September 2013, Massachusetts became the first state to provide for a greater remedy under Padilla than federal law requires; its Supreme Judicial Court opted to continue applying Padilla retroactively to state convictions. Shortly thereafter, New Mexico also applied Padilla retroactively. The highest courts in South Dakota, Maryland, and New York reached the opposite conclusion. The South Dakota Supreme Court applied its own state retroactivity test to decide Padilla would not be applied retroactively, while the Maryland Court of Appeals declared that it was bound by Chaidez, and similarly could not apply Padilla retroactively. The New York Court of Appeals held that under both the federal and state retroactivity tests, Padilla does not apply retroactively.