FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
appeal from the Circuit Court for Escambia County. John L.
Thomas, Public Defender, and M. J. Lord, Assistant Public
Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Michael L. Schaub, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
the defendant below, represented himself in two criminal
cases that were tried on the same day in separate bench
trials. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred by
failing to renew the offer of counsel before the start of the
second trial. We disagree and affirm for the reasons that
was charged with multiple criminal offenses arising out of
separate incidents involving his sister ("the 2014
case") and his girlfriend ("the 2015 case").
The cases were not consolidated, but they were considered
together at a final pretrial hearing held on April 1, 2016.
At that hearing, the cases were set for bench
trials the following week, and the trial
court also considered Appellant's motion to discharge his
court-appointed attorney and represent himself at the trials.
After conducting a full Faretta inquiry during which the court advised
Appellant of the consequences of self-representation and the
charges and potential sentences he was facing in both
cases, the court authorized Appellant to represent
himself. The court also appointed Appellant's prior
attorney as standby counsel.
cases proceeded to trial the following week, on April 7,
2016. The trial court called the 2014 case first and
conducted another full Faretta inquiry, but the
court only discussed the charges and potential sentences that
Appellant was facing in the 2014 case and did not mention the
2015 case. Appellant confirmed that he wanted to continue to
represent himself with standby counsel, and the court
permitted him to do so. After closing arguments in the 2014
case, the court took that case under advisement and
immediately called the 2015 case. The court did not conduct
another Faretta inquiry or renew the offer of
counsel prior to starting the trial in the 2015 case, and
Appellant represented himself at the trial with standby
was found guilty as charged in both cases, and he was
sentenced to a lengthy prison term. This appeal followed.
Florida Supreme Court held in Traylor v. State that
the trial court is required to renew the offer of
court-appointed counsel to an unrepresented defendant at the
commencement of each "crucial stage of the
proceeding." 596 So.2d 957, 968 (Fla. 1992).
Specifically, the defendant "must be informed of the
right to counsel and the consequences of waiver."
Id.; see also Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.111(d)(5)
("If a waiver is accepted at any stage of the
proceedings, the offer of assistance of counsel shall be
renewed by the court at each subsequent stage of the
proceedings at which the defendant appears without
trial is a crucial stage of the proceeding at which the offer
of counsel must be renewed. See Lamb v. State, 535
So.2d 698, 699 (Fla. 1st DCA 1988). However, that does not
necessarily mean that the offer of counsel must be renewed on
the first day of trial. See Wilson v. State, 76
So.3d 1085, 1088 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011) ("The beginning of
the 'trial' in the context of rule 3.111(d)(5) may
not be the actual start of the trial, but the start of the
trial stage."). Renewal of the offer of counsel at a
pretrial hearing is sufficient so long as the offer was made
for the trial stage and there is no intervening crucial stage
between the renewal of the offer of counsel and the actual
start of the trial. See Knight v. State, 770 So.2d
663, 669-70 (Fla. 2000) (citing Lamb); McCarthy
v. State, 731 So.2d 778, 780 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999);
Lamb, 535 So.2d at 669; cf. Brown v. State,
113 So.3d 134, 142 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013) (where trial court
renewed offer of counsel prior to the start of jury
selection, court was not required to renew offer at the start
of each day of the multi-day trial); Harris v.
State, 687 So.2d 29 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997) (trial court was
not required to renew offer of counsel at start of retrial
that occurred shortly after mistrial in original trial).
Appellant's waiver of counsel at the April 1 pretrial
hearing was clearly for the trial stage in both
cases, and the start of the trial in the 2015 case less
than a week later was not a subsequent crucial stage of the
proceeding for which the offer of counsel had to be renewed.
Likewise, the fact that the trial in the 2014 case occurred
between the pretrial hearing and the trial in the 2015 case
is immaterial because the Faretta inquiry held at
the pretrial hearing addressed both cases, and there were no
subsequent crucial-stage proceedings in the 2015
case between the pretrial hearing and the start of trial
in that case. Accordingly, we agree with the State that the
trial court did not err when it failed to renew the offer of
counsel at the start of the trial in the 2015
although not necessarily dispositive based on Howard v.
State, 147 So.3d 1040 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014), it is still
significant that Appellant had standby counsel with him at
the trials in both cases because as the Florida Supreme Court
stated in Knight, "[s]tandby counsel is a
constant reminder to a self-representing defendant of his
right to court-appointed counsel at any stage of the
proceeding." 770 So.2d at 670; see also Brown,
113 So.3d at 142; Bloodsaw v. State, 949 So.2d 1119,
1122 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007); McCarthy, 731 So.2d at 781;
Mincey v. State, 684 So.2d 236, 238 (Fla. 1st DCA
1996); Harrell v. State, 486 So.2d 7 (Fla. 3d DCA
1986). Accordingly, under the circumstances of this case,
even if the trial court erred by failing to renew the offer
of counsel before starting the trial in the 2015 case
(despite having done so earlier in the day prior to the start
of the trial in the 2014 case), Appellant cannot show
prejudice due to the presence of standby counsel in both
this case is distinguishable from Segal v. State,
920 So.2d 1279 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006), which also involved
Faretta and two separate, but related cases. The
Fourth District held in that case that it was error for the
trial court not to renew the offer of counsel prior to the
start of the hearing in the defendant's violation of
probation (VOP) case despite the fact that the court
conducted a Faretta inquiry in the criminal case
that gave rise to the VOP case. Id. at 1280. Most
pertinent here is that although the court rejected the
State's argument that the Faretta inquiry in the
related criminal case was sufficient, the court also stated
that "[w]e might well have affirmed those convictions if
there had either been a full Faretta inquiry
specifically warning appellant of the dangers of
self-representation, including the penalties in his VOP case.
. . ." Id. ...