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Baker v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

May 31, 2017

EDNA LOUISE BAKER, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, St. Lucie County; Robert E. Belanger, Judge; L.T. Case No. 562014CF 001107A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Benjamin Eisenberg, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Mitchell A. Egber, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Klingensmith, J.

         Appellant Edna Baker filed a pretrial motion for a hearing and appointment of an expert to evaluate her competency. The trial court thereafter entered an order appointing a doctor for an evaluation. Although Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.210(b) requires a trial court to hold a competency hearing within twenty days of being presented with reasonable grounds to question a defendant's competency, appellant waived that requirement in her pretrial motion. Defense counsel never scheduled a competency hearing, and the record does not reflect that one was ever conducted. The case proceeded to trial, and appellant was convicted of burglary of a dwelling and grand theft of a dwelling. Because the record does not show that there was a determination of appellant's competency at the time of trial, we remand for further proceedings.

         In the motion to evaluate competency, appellant's counsel asserted there were "reasonable grounds to believe that [appellant] is incompetent to proceed." The motion also stated that appellant "hereby waives the required 20 day hearing pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.210(b)."

         Three days later, the trial court entered an order requiring the examination of appellant's competency and an assessment of recommended treatment. The order appointed a doctor to examine appellant, and provided:

If the Doctor is appointed for the purpose of determining competency, pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.210(b), a hearing shall [be] held within 20 days of the filing of this motion. The Defendant hereby waives this provision and shall schedule a competency hearing pursuant to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure should it become necessary, with notice to the State and Court.

(Emphasis in original). Without ever conducting a hearing on competency, the case was tried and appellant was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. This appeal followed.

         Appellant asserts that the trial court reversibly erred by failing to conduct a competency hearing within twenty days of ordering a competency evaluation as required by Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.210(b), despite appellant's explicit waiver of such a hearing in her motion for the evaluation.

         The issue of "[w]hether the circuit court fundamentally erred in failing to hold a competency hearing presents a pure question of law subject to de novo review." A.L.Y. v. State, 212 So.3d 399, 402 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017).

         The procedure for determining a defendant's competency is outlined in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.210(b), which states:

(b) Motion for Examination. If, at any material stage of a criminal proceeding, the court of its own motion, or on motion of counsel for the defendant or for the state, has reasonable ground to believe that the defendant is not mentally competent to proceed, the court shall immediately enter its order setting a time for a hearing to determine the defendant's mental condition, which shall be held no later than 20 days after the date of the filing of the motion, and may order the defendant to be examined by no more than 3 experts, as needed, prior ...

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