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Pro se defendant must be advised of rights

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The requirement to advise a defendant of the dangers of self-representation and the benefit of counsel applies equally regardless of whether a pro se defendant is choosing to plead guilty or go to trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided today.

The appellate court declined to follow Sedberry v. State, 610 N.E.2d 284, 286 (Ind. Ct. App. 1993), Redington v. State, 678 N.E.2d 114, 118 (Ind. Ct. App. 1997), and Greer v. State, 690 N.E.2d 1214, 1217 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998), in ruling on David Hopper v. State of Indiana, No. 13A01-1002-PC-41, because they seem to establish two different standards for reviewing a wavier of counsel. Those cases apply a less demanding standard for defendants who choose to plead guilty than those who want to go to trial. The state wanted the judges to follow Sedberry, which held if a defendant waived his right to counsel and pleads guilty, there’s no need to advise the defendant about the dangers of proceeding without counsel because the defendant isn’t going to trial.

“We posit that the direction Sedberry takes us diminishes plea negotiations and guilty plea hearings in importance. We believe both are, indeed, critical stages of the proceeding where representation by a lawyer is crucial,” wrote Judge Michael Barnes.

Hopper pleaded guilty to Class A misdemeanor operating while intoxicated after waiving his rights to counsel. He read a form provided by the court, which stated if his case was serious enough, the judge would appoint a public defender. The judge also explained if he couldn’t afford an attorney, one would be appointed, but the judge never explained the dangers of waiving representation.

Hopper filed a petition for post-conviction relief several years later when he was represented by counsel, arguing he didn’t knowingly or intelligently waive his right to counsel. He also stated he was a high school drop out and didn’t understand some of the terminology in the form given to him.

“The right to counsel in a criminal case is not dependent upon the ‘seriousness’ of the case,” wrote Judge Barnes. “If this form is still in use, we direct that the references to the ‘seriousness’ of the case be deleted from the form’s discussion of the right to counsel.”

There’s no evidence the form advises defendants on the peril of proceeding without representation, the trial court judge didn’t inform Hopper of those dangers, and there’s no evidence Hopper independently understood the disadvantages of self-representation. Because his decision wasn’t knowingly or intelligently made, there’s no need to decide whether he was prejudiced by a lack of representation, the appellate court concluded. The judges remanded the case for further proceedings.
 

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  1. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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