Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Defendant's Waiver of Counsel Post-Plea Was Knowing, Voluntary

U.S. v. Vigil, 2015 WL 1515477 (4/6/15) (Wyo.) (unpub'd) - The 10th finds Mr. Vigil knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel where the district court gave him a choice: either continue with current counsel or file the guilty-plea-withdrawal motion counsel refuses to file and continue pro se. The 10th holds that a less extensive on-the-record advisement may suffice for waivers occurring after trial than for those waivers happening before trial. The 10th treats the plea withdrawal stage as a post-trial stage. At that stage, the court didn't have to advise about the grounds needed to obtain a guilty-plea withdrawal or possible defenses or mitigating circumstances. Just the "basic facts" regarding the usefulness of counsel and the hazards of self-representation are all the defendant needs to know. Since granting the withdrawal motion was highly unlikely, the court didn't have to advise Mr. Vigil about matters relevant to trial. With these principles in mind, the court adequately advised Mr. Vigil and, besides, he had standby counsel to answer any questions he might have. Mr. Vigil did not have to be put under oath for the counsel waiver to be valid because the oath isn't even required for plea proceedings.