Appellate Division Remands PCR Appeal for Evidentiary Hearing

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On November 30, 2015, the Appellate Division of New Jersey decided the case of State v. Lepianka. Mr. Lepianka was indicted for two counts of third-degree distribution of heroin, one count of third-degree possession of ecstasy with intent to distribute, one count of fourth-degree resisting arrest, and one count of fourth-degree assault on a law enforcement officer.

Mr. Lepianka agreed to a plea deal that required him to plead guilty to intent to distribute, with the rest of the charges being dismissed. Mr. Lepianka was not a United States citizen, but his attorney at the time was of the opinion that Mr. Lepianka’s plea deal would not necessarily cause him to be deported. However, after taking the plea deal, Mr. Lepianka received a notice of deportation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Mr. Lepianka filed for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in regards to his guilty plea. The Appellate Division decided that the lower court was incorrect in failing to hold an evidentiary hearing and that the case should be remanded to determine the merits of Mr. Lepianka’s claim.