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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But since that 2010 ruling, Boehm has retired and been replaced by Justice Steven David, and today the high court reversed its earlier decision on a rehearing petition requested by the state.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. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  2. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

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