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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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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