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People v. Hinton

November 8, 2005

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
WILLIAM L. HINTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois, No. 04-CF-308. Honorable Robert P. Livas, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Barry

The defendant, William L. Hinton, was charged with two counts of aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12--4(b)(6) (West 2004)) and one count of domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12--3.2(a)(2) (West 2004)). He waived his sixth amendment (U.S. Const., amend. VI) right to counsel and proceeded pro se. The defendant then pled guilty to all three charges pursuant to a fully negotiated agreement. The trial court sentenced the defendant to two concurrent two-year terms of imprisonment for the aggravated battery counts.

At the sentencing hearing, the trial court admonished the defendant that if indigent, he would be appointed counsel regarding proceedings on a postplea motion. The defendant then filed a pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Thereafter, the court did not appoint counsel for the defendant regarding the motion. The court dismissed the defendant's motion.

On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court did not comply with Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (188 Ill. 2d R. 604(d)) because it failed to appoint counsel concerning his motion to withdraw the plea. The State contends that the defendant's earlier waiver of the right to counsel applied to the proceedings regarding his postplea motion. We hold that the defendant's previous waiver of the right to counsel was inapplicable to the postplea proceedings. Thus, we reverse and remand.

BACKGROUND

When the complaint was filed, the trial court appointed counsel for the defendant. Later, the court granted the appointed attorney's motion to withdraw from the case. The defendant stated that he did not wish to be represented by counsel and that he intended to proceed pro se to a jury trial. The judge questioned the defendant extensively concerning his waiver of the right to counsel and repeatedly admonished him regarding the consequences of proceeding pro se. The court then found that the defendant had knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel. The defendant represented himself during jury selection.

On the date set for trial, the defendant announced to the court that he wished to speak with the prosecutor. After the defendant and the prosecutor conferred, the prosecutor informed the court that the parties had reached a plea agreement. The defendant agreed to plead guilty to the offenses in exchange for the State's recommendation of a two-year prison sentence. After hearing the State's factual basis, the court accepted the defendant's guilty plea.

The trial court imposed the two-year sentence, and the judge then admonished the defendant concerning the procedures necessary to perfect an appeal. Among these admonishments, the judge said, "[I]f you are indigent, *** [a]n attorney would be appointed *** to assist you in the preparation of [a postplea] motion." The defendant indicated that he understood the admonishments.

The trial court issued its sentencing order on August 2, 2004. On August 10, 2004, the defendant filed a pro se document with the court titled "Affidavit." In this document, the defendant stated, "I *** will like to withdraw, my 'plea of guilty,' to 'not guilty,' *** and will like to proceed, with a 'bench trial'." The court construed the document as a motion to withdraw the guilty plea.

The trial court held a hearing on the defendant's motion on August 11, 2004, at which the defendant proceeded pro se. The judge asked the defendant to state the reason he wished to withdraw his guilty plea. The defendant said that he was waiving his right to a jury trial and wished to proceed with a bench trial. The judge explained to the defendant that he had previously waived his right to a jury trial when he pled guilty. When the judge asked the defendant again for the legal basis to withdraw his guilty plea, the defendant repeated his desire for a bench trial. The prosecutor asked the court to strike the defendant's motion because "[i]t doesn't plead anything that you can grant relief upon." After further discussion among the judge, the prosecutor, and the defendant, the judge said, "At this moment the motion that [the defendant] has filed has been dismissed. You still have an opportunity to file a legal reason to allow me to withdraw your guilty plea and sentence imposed." The defendant appealed.

ANALYSIS

The defendant submits that the trial court failed to comply with Rule 604(d) because it did not appoint counsel regarding his motion to withdraw the guilty plea. The State asserts that the defendant's earlier waiver of the right to counsel applied to the proceedings concerning the motion to withdraw the guilty plea.

We review a trial court's compliance with supreme court rules de novo. People v. Jones, 349 Ill. App. 3d 255, 812 N.E.2d 32 (2004).

At the time the trial court ruled on the defendant's motion, Rule 604(d) stated that "[n]o appeal from a judgment entered upon a plea of guilty shall be taken unless the defendant, within 30 days of the date on which sentence is imposed, files in the trial court[,] *** if the plea is being challenged, a motion to withdraw the plea." 188 Ill. 2d R. 604(d). When such a motion is filed, "[t]he trial court shall then determine whether the defendant is represented by ...


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