FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Hillsborough County; Barbara
Twine-Thomas and Robert A. Bauman, Judges.
L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Matthew J. Salvia,
Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Bilal A.
Faruqui, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.
these consolidated appeals, B.R.C. seeks review of a
disposition order withholding adjudication and sentencing him
to probation in trial court cases 15-367 and 15-350. B.R.C.
argues that the trial court failed to hold an adequate
competency hearing before proceeding with a bench trial in
both cases. He also challenges the finding of guilt in case
number 15-367. We agree that the trial court failed to
conduct an adequate competency hearing and thus reverse and
remand for further proceedings, as explained below. We affirm
B.R.C.'s remaining issue without discussion.
was charged with robbery and battery in case number 15-367
and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and grand theft in
case number 15-350. Both cases stem from separate incidents
that occurred on January 24, 2015. On February 16, 2015, the
trial court ordered a determination of B.R.C.'s mental
condition in accordance with section 985.19, Florida Statutes
(2014), and Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.095. A
hearing was held on April 6, 2015, during which competency
was to have been addressed, and the cases subsequently
proceeded to trial.
number 15-367, B.R.C. was found guilty of robbery following a
bench trial on August 7, 2015. In case number 15-350, B.R.C.
was found guilty of burglary and petit theft following a
bench trial on August 6, 2015. On August 18, 2016, the trial
court withheld adjudication as to both cases and sentenced
B.R.C. to probation. Because the trial court proceeded to
trial without conducting an adequate competency hearing and
making an independent determination as to whether B.R.C. was
competent to proceed, we reverse and remand for further
review a trial court's decision regarding competency for
an abuse of discretion, but questions of statutory
interpretation are reviewed de novo. State v. D.V.,
111 So.3d 234, 236 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013). Section 985.19
addresses incompetency in juvenile delinquency cases and
(1) If, at any time prior to or during a delinquency case,
the court has reason to believe that the child named in the
petition may be incompetent to proceed with the hearing, the
court on its own motion may . . . stay all proceedings and
order an evaluation of the child's mental condition.
determinations of competency must be made at a hearing, and
the court must make findings of fact based on mental
evaluations provided by two to three experts appointed by the
court. § 985.19(1)(b); Dep't of Children &
Families v. O.C., 933 So.2d 690, 691 (Fla. 5th DCA
8.095(a)(2) further provides that, if the court at any time
prior to or during the adjudicatory hearing has reason to
believe the juvenile may be incompetent to proceed, the court
on its own motion "shall immediately stay the
proceedings and fix a time for a hearing for the
determination of the child's mental condition." If
the child is found at the hearing to be competent to proceed,
"the court shall enter an order so finding and proceed
accordingly." Fla. R. Juv. P. 8.095(a)(3).
court's determination of competency may not be based on a
stipulation of competence; the court must make its own
independent determination, even where all of the experts
agree that the defendant is competent. Zern v.
State, 191 So.3d 962, 964 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016) (citing
Dougherty v. State, 149 So.3d 677-78 (Fla. 2014)
(discussing competency hearing requirements in criminal
proceedings)). "Accepting a stipulation improperly
absolves the trial court from making an independent
determination regarding a defendant's competency to stand
trial." Dougherty, 149 So.3d at 678.
the trial court was informed at the hearing on April 6, 2015,
that B.R.C. was before the court on a "competency
return" and that he had been evaluated by two doctors,
both of whom found him competent to proceed. The trial court
asked B.R.C.'s counsel, "Are you willing to
stipulate then to competency?" Counsel responded,
"I will stipulate to the doctors reports." Counsel
for the State was asked if the State was stipulating to the
evaluation reports on B.R.C., and counsel responded,
"Yes, he's competent. We'll stipulate to
that." Following some discussion regarding transferring
the case to another division, the trial court stated,
"[B.R.C.] goes to the other division ...