Decades ago, when a non-U.S. citizen was convicted on a charge such as DUI, their lawyer could tell them not to worry about their immigration status. It was highly unlikely that the government would bother to deport you.

Those times have changed. Now, the potential for deportation must always be considered before making a guilty plea.

A recent Illinois court decision has underscored this issue. In People v Guzman, a defendant pled guilty to firearm charges. The trial court asked if defendant was a citizen but did not warn defendant about the immigration consequences of his guilty plea. Defendant later tried to withdraw his plea arguing it was not voluntary or knowing and intelligent because the trial court failed to warn him.

The defendant appeared to be supported by Illinois statute, which requires a judge to state: “If you are not a citizen of the United States, you are hereby advised that conviction of the offense for which you have been charged may have the consequences of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization under the laws of the United States.” 725 ILCS 5/113-8.

Despite the above statutory language, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the warning on immigration consequences was not mandatory and the consequences of failing to warn are “collateral” because the trial court does not control the immigration decisions of other governmental agencies. Therefore, the trial court’s failure to warn the defendant did not affect the plea’s voluntariness. The plea could still be withdrawn, however, if the defendant could show prejudice or a denial of justice.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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