Thursday, March 8, 2007

Carter v. State (Ct. of Special Appeals)

Filed March 7, 2007. Opinion by Chief Judge Joseph F. Murphy, Jr.

Appellant was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Cecil County of two felonious violations of the Maryland Controlled Dangerous Substances Act and of the False Statement to a Law Enforcement Officer offense proscribed by Md. Code Criminal Law Article § 9-502. Appellant conceded that the State’s evidence was sufficient to establish that he committed both CDS violations but appealed to reverse the false statement charge, vacate the other judgments of conviction, and remand for a new suppression hearing and new trial. The Court reviewed only the first of Appellant's four questions (the second and third questions were not preserved and the fourth question was declined), specifically, whether the circuit court erred by failing to comply with Rule 4-215 before finding that Appellant had waived his right to counsel. The Appellant argued, with agreement from the State, that at no time prior to the trial date or on the trial date did a circuit court judge provide the advice required by Rule 4-215(a) (1)-(5), which reads in part:

Rule 4-215. Waiver of counsel.

(a) First appearance in court without counsel. At the defendant's first appearance in court without counsel, or when the defendant appears in the District Court without counsel, demands a jury trial, and the record does not disclose prior compliance with this section by a judge, the court shall:

  1. Make certain that the defendant has received a copy of the charging document containing notice as to the right to counsel.
  2. Inform the defendant of the right to counsel and of the importance of assistance of counsel.
  3. Advise the defendant of the nature of the charges in the charging document, and the allowable penalties, including mandatory penalties, if any.
  4. Conduct a waiver inquiry pursuant to section (b) of this Rule if the defendant indicates a desire to waive counsel.
  5. If trial is to be conducted on a subsequent date, advise the defendant that if the defendant appears for trial without counsel, the court could determine that the defendant waived counsel and proceed to trial with the defendant unrepresented by counsel.

As a consequence, reversal is required.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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