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Daramy v. United States

July 22, 1999

PHANTA DARAMY, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Before Terry and Farrell, Associate Judges, and Belson, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Belson, Senior Judge

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

(Hon. Arthur L. Burnett, Sr., Trial Judge)

Submitted June 8, 1999

Appellant Phanta Daramy pled guilty to one count of distribution of marijuana, D.C. Code § 33-541 (a)(2)(D) (1998 Repl.), and one count of possession of marijuana, D.C. Code § 33-541 (a)(2)(D). Daramy appeals the trial court's denial of her motion to vacate her convictions, contending that the trial court erred in that it gave her an inadequate warning of the potential consequences of a conviction upon her efforts to become a naturalized citizen, and also accompanied such warning as was given with statements that lulled her into disregarding the warning, and that thus the trial court was required to grant her motion to vacate her convictions. We hold that the trial court's colloquy with appellant satisfied the advice requirements of D.C. Code § 16-713 (1997 Repl.), and therefore affirm.

In 1993, the government filed a three count information charging Daramy with two counts of distribution of marijuana, and one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. In 1994, Daramy offered to plead guilty to one count of distribution of marijuana and one count of possession of marijuana. In exchange, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining distribution count. Before accepting the pleas, the trial court addressed Daramy personally in open court as required by Super. Ct. Crim. R. 11.

In response to a question by the trial court, Daramy responded that she was born in Monrovia, Liberia, and was not a United States citizen. The court then advised Daramy of the consequences of a conviction on her efforts to be naturalized:

"Okay. Well, all I need to know is whether you have become a citizen already. If you haven't, I am required to tell you that there's a provision of the D.C. law which requires that for guilty pleas of people who are not U.S. citizens, the Court -- the Judge is required to tell the defendant that Immigration and Naturalization Service could review your status to decide whether to allow you to remain in the United States or to return to your home country.

If you were required to depart, put it plainly, if you were deported, you could be barred from re-entry at some future date.

Now these are misdemeanors and they may not even bother and they usually focus on more serious crimes and crimes of what they call moral turpitude. But, the law requires me to tell you for any offense, Immigration has complete discretion -- I have no control over whether they do or they don't, to review your status and decide whether you should stay in the United States or not. Do you understand that?"

Daramy responded in the affirmative. After hearing the evidence the government would have produced at trial, Daramy admitted to selling one hundred dollars worth of marijuana to an undercover police officer. The trial court concluded that Daramy made an informed and voluntary decision to waive her rights and plead guilty. The trial court accepted the plea and on the same day sentenced Daramy to two years of unsupervised probation.

Over two years later, Daramy filed a motion to vacate her convictions and withdraw her guilty pleas. She based her motion on the contention that the trial court's advice concerning the potential consequences of the convictions did not satisfy the requirements of D.C. Code § 16-713. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Daramy again contends that the trial court erred in failing to adhere to the statutory requirements of § 16-713 and that the trial court lulled her into a false sense ...


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