This appeal presents an issue of first impression, requiring the court to determine whether Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), and State v. Gaitan, 209 N.J. 339 (2012), require defense counsel to advise their clients whether – and under what circumstances – the successful completion of the pretrial intervention program would permit a defendant to avoid immigration consequences. The Law Division judge denied defendant's petition for postconviction relief, finding Padilla and Gaitan did not apply here, where defendant did not enter a guilty plea.
Because neither Padilla nor Gaitan expressly limits its holding to cases in which a defendant enters a guilty plea, the court declines to narrowly construe their application only to those dispositions. Instead, the court interprets those decisions to impose an obligation upon defense attorneys to advise their clients of the potential immigration consequences of any criminal disposition, whether that disposition will result from a guilty plea, trial, or diversionary program. Accordingly, the court reverses and remands for an evidentiary hearing.