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Matthew v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

August 23, 2017

STATEMATTHEW V. HAWKS, 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, Indian River County; Cynthia L. Cox, Judge; L.T. Case No. 312014CF000378A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Alan T. Lipson, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Joseph D. Coronato, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Kuntz, J.

         The Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence, arguing the court erred when it failed to conduct a hearing and issue a written order determining his competency after previously finding reasonable grounds to question his competence. We agree, vacate the conviction and sentence, and remand for further proceedings.

         Background

         In 2014, the State charged the Defendant by information with making a false report of placing a bomb or other deadly explosive with the intent to deceive. He pled no contest, and the court withheld adjudication and placed him on probation for five years.

         One of the special conditions of his probation prohibited him from "accessing the Internet or other computer services with Internet access." After he accessed Facebook during his probationary period, the State issued an affidavit of violation of probation.

         On two occasions his counsel moved for a competency determination and asked for a court-appointed physician to examine him. The court granted both motions, but the record does not contain any medical evaluations nor any indication as to what the Defendant's medical evaluations may have revealed.

         The only reference to the Defendant's competency found in the record occurred during a change of plea hearing when the court asked him if he was taking any medication. The Defendant responded that he was taking "like six" psychotropic medications. The court noted the Defendant's prior mental health issues and then asked defense counsel whether there was an evaluation of the Defendant and whether he was competent. Counsel responded affirmatively to both questions. After this brief inquiry, the court accepted the change of plea and entered judgment against the Defendant. The court sentenced him to ten years in prison followed by two years of community control. This appeal followed.

         Analysis

         The procedure for determining a defendant's competency is governed by Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.210 through 3.215. We review the court's judgment and its compliance with these rules de novo. Baker v. State, 42 Fla.L.Weekly D1257 (Fla. 4th DCA May 31, 2017) (citation omitted).

         Under Rule 3.210, "once a trial court has reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal defendant is not competent to proceed, it has no choice but to conduct a competency hearing." Monte v. State, 51 So.3d 1196, 1202 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) (citing Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.210-3.212). The court's obligation is triggered upon its initial finding that occurs when it enters an order appointing an expert to evaluate a defendant's competency. Id.; see also Moorer v. State, 187 So.3d 315, 317 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016). Rule 3.210 is clear and is designed to "safeguard a defendant's due process ...


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