By Marcus Fields

Today, in U.S. v. Solares, an unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court for the Western District of North Carolina’s judgment against Adrian Solares imposing a 93-month sentence after Solares pled guilty to multiple firearm offenses. In doing so, the Fourth Circuit denied Solares’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim and found that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Solares’s petition to withdraw his guilty plea.

 Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claim Not Supported by the Record

Solares claims that his attorney failed to provide effective assistance when “counsel allegedly advised Solares that he could not plead guilty to some of the counts against him and proceed to trial on the remaining counts.” The Fourth Circuit rejected this claim. It began by stating that a defendant may only raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for the first time on appeal if “it conclusively appears from the record that counsel did not provide effective assistance.” The defendant must show that: “(1) counsel’s performance was objectively unreasonable; and (2) defendant was prejudiced by counsel’s performance.

To satisfy the prejudice prong in the context of a guilty plea, a defendant must demonstrate “a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” A defendant must make such a demonstration by convincing “the court that such a decision would have been rational under the circumstances.” The Fourth Circuit determined that the record below did not support such an assertion and thus rejected Solares’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

The Magistrate Judge did not Abuse Discretion By Refusing to Allow Solares to Withdraw Plea

The Fourth Circuit held that Solares had waived his right of appellate review because he failed to appeal the magistrate judge’s ruling to the district court. The Fourth Circuit cited language in another case stating that a defendant could not “ignore his right to file objections with the district court without imperiling his right to raise the objections in the circuit court of appeals.” Furthermore, the Fourth Circuit found that the magistrate judge did not err in deciding to deny Solares’s motion to withdraw.

Because the Fourth Circuit rejected both of the claims raised by Solares on appeal, it affirmed the district court’s judgment.