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COA: Man didn't personally waive right to jury

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Because the trial court erred in finding a defendant waived his right to have a jury hear the enhancement aspects of his drunk-driving case, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed his elevated conviction.

In Teddy L. Garcia v. State of Indiana, No. 57A03-0902-CR-75, Teddy Garcia claimed because he didn't personally waive the right to have a jury determine whether he had the requisite previous conviction essential to elevate his operating while intoxicated offense to a Class D felony and to have them determine whether he was an habitual offender, his conviction should be overturned.

Garcia was found guilty of Class A misdemeanor OWI by a jury. Instead of having the jury decide whether he had a previous conviction that could elevate the offense and if he was a habitual offender, Garcia's attorney told the judge they saw no reason to have the jury go through that process. The trial judge enhanced the conviction to a Class D felony and found him to be a habitual substance offender.

Garcia asked the judge if he could explain to the jury about his situation on his past counts of operating while intoxicated and possession of marijuana, which the judge said he could but that the jury would be making its decision only based on his prior convictions, not the circumstances around those convictions.

Based on the exchange between Garcia, his attorney, and the judge, it's apparent he didn't acquiesce in his attorney's representation of a waiver, wrote Senior Judge Patrick Sullivan. Indiana Supreme Court precedent in Kellems v. State, 849 N.E.2d 1110 (Ind. 2008), held that a wavier requires assent to a bench trial by a defendant personally and the record must reflect that wavier was direct and not implied. Also, it held counsel can't waive a client's right to a jury trial.

The appellate court affirmed his Class A misdemeanor OWI conviction, but reversed the Class D felony enhancement and enhancement for being a habitual substance offender. It remanded the issue for further proceedings.

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