Florida Criminal Appeals Attorney Law

Appellate Law, Criminal Defense and Appeals and Post Conviction Relief in Florida Courts, Federal District Courts and the 11th Circuit

Category: 2nd DCA

Florida’s Fourth and Second DCAs Start New Year With Interesting Opinions

The Second and Fourth District Courts of Appeal have started off the New Year with a couple of opinions that Florida’s criminal defense and criminal appeals attorneys should take a minute to read.

In the first opinion, Peterson v. State, No. 2D11-5083, the Court held that a vehicle’s air bag control system report was properly admitted into evidence at trial because the report is not testimonial.  In short, because the Court determined that the report was non-testimonial, the court rejected Peterson’s contention that the admission of the report violated the Confrontation Clause.  In so holding, the Court reasoned that the air bag system report was analogous to a defendant’s driving record.  Slip. op., pgs. 2-5 (citing Card v. State, 927 So. 2d 200 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006) and Pfleiger v. State, 952 So. 2d 1251 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007)).

Next, in Seymour v. State, No. 4D13-4649, the court entertained, and granted, Seymour’s emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus, wherein Seymour asked the Court to reverse the trial court’s decision to deny him bond after an Arthur hearing (State v. Arthur, 390 So. 2d 717, 718 (Fla. 1980)).  The Court granted the petition, and ordered the trial court to set a reasonable bond for Seymour.  This opinion is worth the few minutes it will take to read because opinions on bond issues don’t come up as often as criminal defense attorneys might like.  And, since the Court took the time to review several other bond cases, the Seymour opinion might be a good one to keep handy.

2nd DCA Examines Defense of Necessity in DUI Cases, And Florida Supreme Court Reevaluates Cause Challenges

Well, voluntary bar commitments are heating up, which leaves less time for blogging, but I wanted to take a moment to pass along 2 cases worth noting for Florida’s criminal defense and criminal appeals attorneys.

First, DUI practitioners should read Brooks v. State, 2D11-2586, because the Court discusses the defense of necessity in DUI cases.  According to the opinion, Brooks asked the trial court to instruct the jury on the defense because the evidence at trial showed that Brooks was compelled to drive (after some party time with his friends, of course) to save his friend’s ailing cat.   Unfortunately for Mr. Brooks, the Court disagreed.  Since the defense is so unusual, the Court relied on opinions from other jurisdictions.   Brooks, slip op., pgs. 5-6.  Ultimately, the Court stated that the defense of necessity is not available as a defense to DUI in Florida where the asserted emergency involves the threat of harm to an animal instead of a person.

Next is Matarranz v. State, SC11-1617.  You know it’s going to be a long opinion when it opens with a quote from To Kill A Mockingbird, and ends with a quote from Thomas Jefferson.  The short version: the Florida Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Third District, and remanded for a new trial because the trial court erred in denying cause challenges.  In so doing, the Court clarified the law surrounding peremptory challenges and the removal of jurors for cause.  With regard to the State’s preservation argument, the Court found that the issue had been sufficiently preserved because (1) defense counsel moved to strike the juror based on a thorough conversation regarding her ability to be fair and impartial; (2) after the trial court denied the challenge for cause, counsel had to use a peremptory challenge to strike the juror; (3) counsel exhausted all his peremptory challenges; and, (4) counsel thereafter identified and listed additional jurors he would have excused if provided with an additional challenge.  See Matarranz, slip op., pgs. 13-17.

The Court next determined that the trial court reversibly erred by denying counsel’s challenge for cause.  In so doing, the Court specifically observed that it’s OK for counsel to engage potential jurors in conversations regarding their partialities, biases, prejudices, and misconceptions when they result from a lack of familiarity with the judicial system, rather than from immutable opinions and attitudes that arise from personal experiences and firmly held beliefs.  See slip op., pg. 22.  In other words, where counsel has a concern about a potential juror’s misinformation and confusion regarding the law or process, counsel may engage the potential juror in an effort to rehabilitate the potential juror.

Finally, much of the Matarranz opinion consists of the majority opinion’s criticism of Judge LaBarga’s dissent, and the dissent’s criticism of the majority.  If you happen to like to reading such verbal sparring, you’ll certainly enjoy this opinion.  See pgs. 27-33 for the majority’s criticism of Judge Canady’s dissent, and pages 36-40 for the dissent.

E-Filing in Florida’s Appellate Courts: A Work in Progress

Can you guess which of Florida’s appellate courts is not like the others?  If you handle criminal appeals on a regular basis, then you know that four out of five of Florida’s District Courts of Appeal are on eDCA, the electronic filing system begun by the 1st DCA a while ago: the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth DCA.  But one of them stands alone: the Second DCA.   While the other DCA’s opted to follow the course of the First DCA, and begin their foray into e-filing on eDCA, the Second is the only DCA to skip eDCA, and commence its foray into e-filing by jumping directly onto Florida’s Statewide e-filing Portal.  (the Florida Supreme Court did this as well a few months ago).  Today marked the first day of voluntary filing with the 2nd DCA through the Portal.

Have any of you tried filing with the 2d DCA through the Portal?  I did.  It leaves a lot to be desired.  Don’t get me wrong, e-filing definitely beats having to send  your briefs, motions, and responses via FedEx, followed by a courtesy copy by e-mail, but for some reason, the Portal does not seem to provide access to the court docket.  To see the appellate docket, you still need to go to the “online dockets” link from the Portal website, or at any of the DCA webpages, and those dockets are not real-time.  So in other words, you can submit something electronically, but it still won’t show up on the docket for several days.  The other thing I don’t like is that when you’re filing through the Portal, you don’t get a time-stamped copy to reflect the time and date of your e-filing.  Similar to the Federal CM/ECF system, the e-DCA system provides both of those functions.

If you are lucky enough to be in Federal court, then you get the ease of working with CM/ECF.  In my view, CM/ECF is the best e-filing system there is because you get a real-time docket, time/date stamps on your e-filed pleadings, electronic confirmation of your successful filing, and automatic e-service of your pleadings on the other parties in the case (except pro se parties).  E-DCA is a close second.  Although e-DCA lacks electronic service, e-DCA at least provides you an e-mail alert that a pleading or order was filed in the case, and a link to view the document.  Plus, e-DCA provides you with a real-time docket, time/date stamps on your e-filed pleadings, and electronic confirmation of your successful filing.

E-filing in Florida’s State courts is a work in progress.  In the coming months, the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth DCA will all have to make the transition to the Statewide Portal, as will the rest of Florida’s trial courts.   Hopefully, the Portal we have today is a work in progress, too.

Pagan v. State, No. 2D11-3804: Florida’s Second DCA Issues Opinion Touching On Issue of Plea Bargain Waivers of Claims of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

On November 14, 2012, the Second DCA issued an opinion in Pagan v. State, No. 2D11-3804, wherein the court held that the trial court erred in summarily denying Pagan’s Rule 3.170(l) motion to withdraw his plea based on misleading advice of counsel.  According to the opinion, after Pagan was sentenced to 30 years for his involvement in the death of a child, Pagan moved to withdraw his plea.  The trial court appointed conflict free counsel to represent Pagan, and a hearing was set.  Just before the hearing commenced, the State offered Pagan a reduced sentence of 15 years in exchange for Pagan’s waiver of any right to seek collateral relief.  The court gave Pagan time to consult with his attorney, after which Pagan accepted the State’s offer.  The court resentenced him to the lesser term, remarking to Pagan that “you would be agreeing that you will withdraw this motion to withdraw your plea and you will also be agreeing that you will not file any further post-conviction motions attempting to reduce this sentence that I am about to impose.”  Later the court added: “And just to reiterate part of the deal is you will not be filing any more post-conviction motions.  This—this is it. You filed it.  It worked for you.”  After resentencing, Pagan filed several Rule 3.850 motions, alleging that he received ineffective assistance in connection with the State’s offer to resolve his rule 3.170(l) motion.  Predictably, the trial court denied each of his motions.  On appeal, the Second District reversed.

In support of its holding, the Court first noted that a Rule 3.170(l) motion is not a postconviction matter, and that a defendant is entitled to effective assistance of counsel in connection with such motion.  See Pagan, slip op., pg. 3.  The Court also observed that “a defendant can waive his right to collaterally attack his judgment and sentence when the waiver is expressly stated in the plea agreement and he knowingly and voluntarily agrees to the waiver.”  See Pagan, slip op., pg. 4 (citing Stahl v. State, 972 So. 2d 1013, 1015 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008); Williams v. United States, 396 F.3d 1340, 1342 (11th Cir. 2005)). However, “ineffective assistance of counsel claims attacking the advice received from counsel in entering into the plea and waiver cannot be waived.”  See Id.

While the opinion seems to have reached the right result by holding that Pagan did not waive his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, it is troubling that the court’s opinion closed with a cautionary note:

We remand to the circuit court to conduct an evidentiary hearing on
Pagan’s allegations of ineffective assistance in connection with the agreement to
resolve his rule 3.170(l) motion. We caution that Pagan may subject himself to a worse
result if he goes forward with this process, but that is his decision to make.

Pagan, slip op. pg. 4.

I also find it troubling that the Court failed to address the obvious ethical issue presented by the opinion: whether a defendant can be offered a plea bargain that requires him or her to waive future claims of ineffective assistance of counsel (or prosecutorial misconduct)?  Florida’s criminal appeals and criminal defense attorneys may remember that this past August, the Professional Ethics Committee of the Florida Bar issued Proposed Ethics Advisory Opinion 12-1, which states that plea bargains which require defendants to waive future claims of prosecutorial misconduct or ineffective assistance of counsel violate Bar rules.

To view a few of the articles that appeared in the Florida Bar News regarding the Advisory Opinion, click here and here.  Although the Advisory Opinion has not yet been adopted by the Florida Bar Board of Governors, if there is no appeal of the proposed opinion, the Advisory Opinion will become final.

Florida Supreme Court Delays Mandatory E-Filing, And Courts Issuing Numerous Opinions in Aftermath of Shelton and Adkins

Mandatory e-filing in Florida’s courts is being delayed.  Surprising, I know.  Check out the order here. Too bad the State of Florida can’t just buy the CM/ECF system that the Federal courts use.  Then again, that would just be too easy.

As I reviewed the websites for Florida’s District Courts of Appeal this week, I noticed that a good number of opinions are being issued in the wake of State v. Adkins, 37 Fla. L. Weekly S449 (Fla. July 12, 2012).  For example, the Fourth DCA issued a slew of opinions denying Rule 3.850 motions for post-conviction relief, while the First and Second DCA reversed several cases which had been dismissed based on Shelton v. Secretary, Department of Corrections, 802 F. Supp. 2d 1289 (M.D. Fla. 2011).  Note: in Shelton v. Secretary, Dept. of Corrections, No. 11-13515, 2012 WL 3641008 (11th Cir. Aug. 24, 2012), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the District Court’s grant of federal habeas relief.  You can read my previous post on the Eleventh Circuit opinion here.

For those criminal defense and criminal appeals attorneys who are monitoring the Padilla retroactivity issue, in Litchmore v. State, No. 2D12-800, the Second DCA certified a question of great public importance to the Florida Supreme Court as to the retroactivity of Padilla v. Kentucky, — U.S. —, 130 S. Ct. 1473, 176 L. Ed. 2d 284 (2010), in post-conviction proceedings.  The issue remains pending in the Florida Supreme Court.  You can search the docket for State v. Hernandez, No. SC11-1357, by clicking here.

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