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Hart v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 21, 2017

James A. Hart, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Orange Superior Court The Honorable R. Michael Cloud, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 59D01-1507-CM-680

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Jeffrey K. Branstetter Blanton, Branstetter & Pierce, LLC Jeffersonville, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana James B. Martin Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Pyle, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] James Hart ("Hart") appeals his conviction by jury of Class A misdemeanor invasion of privacy. Prior to trial, Hart told the trial court that he did not want court-appointed counsel, but then he failed to obtain his own counsel in the months that followed. A week prior to trial, Hart filed a motion for a continuance, requesting additional time to obtain counsel. The trial court denied the motion, and Hart subsequently represented himself at trial. On appeal, Hart argues that the trial court erred by trying him without counsel because he did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his right to counsel. The State argues that, even though Hart did not verbally waive his right to counsel, he waived his right through his conduct of failing to obtain a lawyer in a timely manner. Because we find that the trial court did not properly advise Hart of the dangers of representing himself, we agree with Hart that he did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his right to counsel verbally or through his conduct. Accordingly, we reverse Hart's conviction and remand to the trial court for a new trial.

         [¶2] We reverse and remand.

         Issue

         Whether Hart knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to counsel.

         Facts

         [¶3] On July 30, 2015, Hart was charged with Class A misdemeanor invasion of privacy for violating a protective order that prohibited him from visiting the French Lick Resort, his wife's place of employment.

         [¶4] On September 14, 2016, the trial court held an initial hearing on Hart's charge. At the hearing, Hart appeared and executed a document entitled "Waiver of Appearance and Written Report of Initial Hearing." (App. 110). The waiver provided:

. . . the Defendant herein is now informed of his/her constitutional rights, which rights are as follows:
1. To retain counsel, and if he intends to do so he must do so within . . . [t]en days . . . because there are deadlines for filing motions and raising defenses, and if those deadlines are missed the legal issues and ...

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