final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Consolidated appeals from the Circuit Court for the
Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Okeechobee County; Dan L.
Vaughn, Judge; L.T. Case Nos. 472015CF000526A and
Haughwout, Public Defender, and Benjamin Eisenberg, Assistant
Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Joseph D.
Coronato, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach,
and the requisite procedure to address the issue lie at the
heart of this appeal. The defendant appeals his judgment and
sentence after entering a nolo contendere plea. He argues the
trial court erred in failing to hold a competency hearing and
failing to enter an order on the issue prior to accepting his
plea. We agree and reverse.
State charged the defendant with possession of a firearm by a
felon, dealing in stolen property, and giving false
information to a pawnbroker. His attorney filed a written
motion for a competency examination, pursuant to Florida Rule
of Criminal Procedure 3.210(b). The motion indicated there
were "reasonable grounds to believe" the defendant
was incompetent, but did not articulate specific facts
concerning the defendant's mental state. The motion
indicated the defendant waived the required twenty-day
trial court granted the motion and appointed an expert. The
order included language reiterating the defendant's
waiver of the hearing. It does not appear that an examination
or a hearing on competency ever took place.
incarcerated, the defendant was later charged with a new
crime of aggravated assault by a detainee with a deadly
weapon and introducing contraband into a county detention
facility. His attorney did not move for a competency
evaluation in the new case.
defendant entered an open plea to both cases nearly a year
after his initial arrest. The trial court accepted the plea
and sentenced the defendant to ten years in prison. The
defendant did not move to withdraw his plea. He now appeals
the judgment and sentence in both cases.
argues the trial court erred in failing to conduct a
competency hearing, relying on Samson v. State, 853
So.2d 1116 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003). There, we held "[a]n
individual adjudicated incompetent is presumed to remain
incompetent until  restored to competence."
Id. at 1116.
the last several years, we have reviewed multiple cases
involving the issue of competency. See, e.g.,
Bain v. State, 211 So.3d 139 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017);
Williams v. State, 178 So.3d 531 (Fla. 4th DCA
2015); R.C. v. State, 157 So.3d 458 (Fla. 4th DCA
2015); Burns v. State, 884 So.2d 1010 (Fla. 4th DCA
2004). Depending on the facts, procedural posture, and
arguments made, our dispositions have varied, possibly giving
the appearance of inconsistency at times. We write to clarify
the law in this area.
thing is certain: competency requires strict adherence to the
Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.210-212. Dougherty
v. State, 149 So.3d 672, 677-78 (Fla. 2014);
Deferrell v. State, 199 So.3d 1056, 1060-61 (Fla.
4th DCA 2016). Once a trial court has reasonable grounds to
believe the defendant is incompetent and orders an
examination, it must hold a hearing, and it must enter a
written order on the issue. See Fla. R. Crim. P.
3.210(b), 3.212(b).Failure to do so is fundamental error and
means that to raise the issue of a failure to comply with
Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.210-212 on direct
appeal, it is not necessary that a defendant first file a
motion to withdraw plea under Florida Rule of Appellate
Procedure 9.140(2)(A) in cases where the trial court has
reasonable grounds to believe the defendant is incompetent
and has ordered an examination. Indeed, the rules mandate a
hearing and an order under such circumstances. This is true
regardless of whether the defendant has previously been
declared incompetent. This mandate does not apply however if the
trial court had no reasonable grounds to believe the
defendant is incompetent.
require a criminal defendant, who may be incompetent, to file
a motion to withdraw a plea before raising the issue on
appeal is unwarranted. If a defendant is incompetent,
confining him to post-conviction relief, without the
assistance of counsel, is not a remedy designed to do
therefore recede from our prior decisions in Burns,
Williams, and R.C. to the extent they
conflict with our holding. We certify conflict with the
First, Third, and Fifth District Courts of Appeal in
Pressley v. State, 227 So.3d 573 (Fla. 1st DCA
2017), Garcia-Manriquez, and Hicks.
and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this
opinion. The trial court may determine the defendant's
competence nunc pro tunc if possible. Hawks v.
State, 226 So.3d 892, 894-95 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017). If the
trial court cannot do so, the judgment and sentence should be
vacated and the case set for trial.
Gerber, C. J, Warner, Gross, Taylor, May, Damoorgian, Ciklin,
Levine, Conner, ...