Florida Court Discusses the Right to Consult with Standby Counsel

Under State and Federal law, people have the right to represent themselves in criminal trials. Self-representation is not a venture that should be entered into lightly, however, as few non-attorneys possess the skills and legal knowledge needed to mount a compelling defense on their own behalf.   While a pro se defendant may intend to consult with an attorney waiting in the wings, they do not have the constitutional right to do so, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court denied the defendant’s appeal following his assault conviction. If you are charged with assault and battery, it is wise to meet with a Tampa violent crime defense attorney about your possible defenses as soon as you can.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with battery on a police officer. After the state rested its case, the defendant asked to represent himself for the rest of the trial. The court conducted a Faretta hearing, after which it found that the defendant voluntarily, knowingly, and freely chose to represent himself despite the risks. During the trial, the defendant repeatedly tried to read from deposition testimony, but the court refused to permit him to do so. The court then asked the defendant if, in light of the fact that he could not read from the deposition transcripts, he still wanted to proceed without an attorney. The defendant responded that he did.

Allegedly, the defendant later asked if the court would allow one of his former lawyers to help him. The judge allowed the defendant to consult his former attorneys to determine whether they should represent him. After that discussion, the defendant chose to represent himself. He was convicted, after which he appealed.

The Right to Consult with Standby Counsel

On appeal, the defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court erred in declining his repeated requests to consult with standby counsel. Specifically, the defendant argued that the court erred by not acceding to his request to call an attorney who could give him minor assistance on the side. The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning and affirmed his conviction.

In doing so, it explained that standby counsel is constitutionally permissible but not required. In other words, the defendant did not have a constitutional right to standby counsel, and he could not manipulate the proceedings by leaping back and forth between his choice to proceed pro se and be represented by counsel. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Meet with a Trusted Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

There are often numerous defenses people charged with violent crimes can assert, but in most instances, they need an experienced attorney to help them set forth compelling arguments. If you are charged with a violent offense, the trusted Tampa lawyers of Hanlon Law can inform you of your rights and assist you in seeking the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.