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Majority reverses Hopper advisement created last year

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A divided Indiana Supreme Court has reversed its 2010 decision to require that pro se defendants be informed about the dangers of pleading guilty without an attorney. Two of the justices who originally voted to create the “Hopper advisement” found themselves in the minority on the high court’s decision on rehearing.

In September 2010, Justices Robert Rucker, Frank Sullivan and Theodore Boehm created the “Hopper requirement” – named after defendant David Hopper – which held that trial courts must be advised of the dangers of going to trial or pleading guilty without representation as required by Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975). The majority in the original decision noted the new advisement – which was prospectively applied – would require minimal additional time or effort at the initial hearing and wouldn’t impose a significant burden on the judicial process. Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Brent Dickson dissented, questioning how many people would decide not to plead guilty based on the advisement or how many repeat offenders would avoid penalties because the warning wasn’t given.

But since that 2010 ruling, Boehm has retired and been replaced by Justice Steven David, and today the high court reversed its earlier decision on a rehearing petition requested by the state. Shepard, David and Dickson made up the majority in the latest opinion. The majority affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief for Hopper – who in 2005 decided to plead guilty to a driving while intoxicated charge after waiving his right to counsel. The majority denied Hopper’s argument and overturned their earlier decision.

“While we do not doubt the value of the Hopper advisement’s language in particular stages of particular cases with particular defendants, the notion that such language should be mandatory in all stages of all cases with all defendants is misplaced,” wrote Shepard in David Hopper v. State of Indiana, No. 13S01-1007-PC-399.

Rucker and Sullivan dissented, with Rucker writing that the state’s petition for rehearing never should have been granted because the state advanced no new arguments. Rucker also couldn’t understand why the majority believes it is a bad idea to provide pro se – and likely indigent – defendants with the advisement outlined in the original Supreme Court decision: “an attorney is usually more experienced in plea negotiations and better able to identify and evaluate any potential defenses and evidentiary or procedural problems in the prosecution’s case.”

“I do not disagree that a Hopper advisement is not necessarily required by the Sixth Amendment or by the Indiana Constitution,” he wrote. “Nor do I advocate that the lack of an advisement would automatically result in reversal of a defendant’s conviction. But the advantages of giving such an advisement, especially at the initial hearing stage of the proceedings, far outweigh any disadvantages of doing so.”

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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