State v. Marzouq

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Opinion Filed December 03, 2019
Attorney for the Case Jim Melo
Amicus Brief Writers Raul Pinto Helen Parsonage
Court NC Court of Appeals
Docket No. 19-471

The North Carolina Advocates for Justice, along with the North Carolina Justice Center, filed an amicis brief in the NC Court of Appeals on behalf of Mr. Ali Awni Said Marzouq.  Mr. Marzouq, a legal permanent resident of the United States, pled guilty to two drug related charges.  His criminal defense attorney provided ineffective assistance by failing to properly advise Mr. Marzouq of the consequences his plea would have on his immigration status.

During the plea colloquy, the trial court discussed the requirements of N.C.G.S. 15A-1022(a) with the defendant. Rather than advising him that his plea could have serious immigration consequences if he was not a U.S. citizen as required by subsection (a)(7) of the statute, the trial court merely asked him if he was a U.S. citizen.  Based on his counsel’s advice, Mr. Marzouq erroneously answered yes, and the trial court failed to comply with the requirement set by the law despite having information that Mr. Marzouq was only a legal permanent resident rather than a U.S. citizen.

The amici brief filed by NCAJ and the North Carolina Justice Center argued that a trial court must adhere to the requirements of N.C.G.S. 15A-1022(a).  Solely asking the defendant about his citizenship status is improper because his answer may have damaging repercussions in other criminal and civil proceedings, including immigration processes.  Amici also argued that this type of interrogation violates a defendant’s rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.