Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. Henry F. Greene, Trial Judge
Kern, Senior Judge. Rogers, Chief Judge, and Steadman, Associate Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kern
Appellant, a lawful permanent resident but not a citizen of the United States, appeals from the denial of his motion, filed pursuant to D.C. Code § 23-110 (1989 Repl.), to vacate his 1983 guilty plea to armed robbery. Appellant contends that his plea should be vacated as a result of the enactment of D.C. Code § 16-713 (1989 Repl.), subsequent to the entry of his guilty plea but prior to his sentencing. *fn1 This legislation requires a trial Judge to advise a defendant who intends to enter a plea of guilty that his conviction upon such plea could lead to deportation if he is not a citizen. We affirm.
Appellant pled guilty to armed robbery in 1983 before the statute was enacted. Between his plea and his sentencing, the statute was enacted. The statute provides in pertinent part:
(a) Prior to acceptance of a plea of guilty . . . to any offense punishable as a crime, the court shall administer the following advisement to the defendant:
If you are not a citizen of the United States, you are 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 pursuant to the laws of the United States.
(b) . . . If the court fails to advise the defendant as required by subsection (a) and the defendant shows that conviction of the offense to which the defendant pleaded guilty . . . may have the consequences for the defendant of [those recited in the advisement], the court, on defendant's motion, shall vacate the judgment and permit the defendant to withdraw the plea of guilty. . . .
D.C. Code § 16-713 (1989 Repl.). The trial court, prior to sentencing him, did not advise him of the possibility he might be deported upon the basis of his conviction. *fn2
In the years since entering his plea, appellant has filed numerous motions attacking the validity of his plea and the sentence imposed but never asserted the grounds he now asserts. *fn3 In his instant motion, appellant asserted for the first time that the enactment in 1983 of § 16-713 requires that he be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea. The trial court denied his motion on the grounds that there was no basis on which to apply the statute retrospectively to appellant's plea.
In his motion to vacate his plea of guilty, appellant asserts that "the court did not inform him that the consequences of a conviction for armed robbery could include deportation, as subsequently mandated by D.C. Code [§ ] 16-713." On appeal, he asserts that the statute "requires that his sentence be vacated even though did not become effective until after his plea proceedings." Appellant's motion filed pursuant to § 23-110 *fn4 rests solely upon his contention that § 16-713, which was enacted after his plea was entered, requires that he be permitted to withdraw his plea.
We note that prior to the enactment of § 16-713, the determination of whether a defendant who had entered a guilty plea without full knowledge of the risk of deportation should be permitted to withdraw his plea was committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. See, e.g., United States v. Russell, 222 App. D.C. 313, 317, 686 F.2d 35, 39 (1985); United States v. Sambro, 147 U.S. App. D.C. 75, 77, 454 F.2d 918, 920 (1971). By enacting § 16-713, the Council of the District of Columbia ended the trial court's discretion to assess on a case-by-case basis *fn5 whether such pleas should be vacated in the interest of Justice.
The new statute contains two provisions. The statute requires the trial court to advise a defendant who intends to plead guilty that the conviction could result in deportation, exclusion, or denial of citizenship. D.C. Code § 16-713(a) (1989 Repl.). Also, under the statute, where the court fails to advise a defendant and where the defendant demonstrates that the conviction could lead to deportation, exclusion, or denial of citizenship, the court "shall" permit that defendant to withdraw his plea of guilty. D.C. Code § 16-713(b) (1989 Repl.). Thus, the mandatory nature of the statutory provision requires the trial court to vacate any guilty plea upon request and without regard to any other circumstances surrounding the entry of the plea, if it was entered by a defendant who risked deportation but was not so informed by the court as required by the statute.
Construing the statute as applying to guilty pleas entered before the statute was enacted would have far reaching consequences for the criminal Justice system and possibly for immigration proceedings based upon those convictions that would then be vacated. In light of these consequences, we must be particularly cognizant of the rules of statutory construction. "The first rule of construction is that legislation must be considered as addressed to the future, not to the past . . . a retrospective operation will not be given to a statute . . . unless such be the 'unequivocal and inflexible import of the terms, and the manifest intention of the legislature.'" Greene v. United States, 376 U.S. 149, 160, 84 S. Ct. 615, 11 L. Ed. 2d 576 (1964) (quoting Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Laramie Stock Yards Co., 231 U.S. 190, 199, 58 L. Ed. 179, 34 S. Ct. 101 (1913)).
Our review of the text of the statute as well as the legislative history reveals no such legislative intent. See COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, Report on Bill No. 4-120, District of Columbia Sentencing Improvements Act (1982). Thus, ...