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Hines v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

December 18, 2019

COURTNEY HINES, 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, Martin County; Lawrence Michael Mirman, Judge; L.T. Case No. 432015CF000212C.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Gary Lee Caldwell, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and MaryEllen M. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          May, J.

         The defendant appeals his conviction and sentence on charges of: 1) two counts of high speed or wanton fleeing; 2) one count of the lesser offense of reckless driving and wanton fleeing; and 3) one count of giving false information to law enforcement during felony investigation or missing person. He argues the trial court erred in failing to hold a competency hearing prior to trial. We agree and reverse for further proceedings.

         The charges arose from a high-speed car chase and subsequent crash. The State charged the defendant with giving a false name to law enforcement, and fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement, among other charges.

         Prior to trial, defense counsel moved for a mental competency examination. The trial court granted the motion and appointed an expert to examine the defendant's mental competency to proceed. Two subsequent stipulated motions for continuance were filed because the defendant's competency examinations were still pending.

         After further continuances, defense counsel moved to withdraw. The court granted the motion and appointed another attorney to represent the defendant. The newly appointed attorney represented defendant at trial, but failed to address the unresolved competency issue before trial.

         The jury convicted the defendant of: 1) two counts of high speed or wanton fleeing; 2) one count of the lesser offense of reckless driving and wanton fleeing; and 3) one count of giving false information to law enforcement during felony investigation or missing person. At sentencing, the trial court reviewed the presentencing investigation report. It then noted "whatever sentence to be imposed [is based] just on the evidence at trial and the other information contained in the PSI that would be proper as far as prior record and so forth."

         The defendant now appeals. Among other issues, he argues the trial court erred in failing to hold a competency hearing and enter an order on his competency prior to trial. The State agrees and so do we. We therefore remand the case, pursuant to Machin v. State, 267 So.3d 1098, 1101 (Fla. 4th DCA 2019).

         There, we held that where a court grants a defendant's motion for appointment of an expert for a competency examination, but fails to hold a hearing or enter a written finding on the movant's competency to proceed, the case must be temporarily remanded to the circuit court with specific instructions. Id. It requires that we "direct that within sixty days, the circuit court shall hold a hearing and issue an order determining whether a nunc pro tunc competency evaluation is possible."

         Depending on the outcome, the circuit court must follow one of the following paths on remand:

1) If the circuit court determines a nunc pro tunc competency determination is not possible, the court must vacate the defendant's conviction and sentence. The appeal in this Court will be dismissed as moot. In this circumstance, the circuit court must hold a competency ...

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