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25008 - Stevenson v. State
Shearouse Adv. Sh. No.
S.E. 2d

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In The Supreme Court

Deborah Ann

Stevenson, Petitioner,

v.

State of South Carolina, Respondent.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

Appeal From Anderson County

H. Dean Hall, Judge

Opinion No. 25008

Submitted October 20, 1999 - Filed November 1, 1999

REVERSED

Assistant Appellate Defender Robert M. Pachak, of

Columbia, for petitioner.

Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief Deputy

Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant

Deputy Attorney General Teresa A. Knox, and

Assistant Attorney General Howard L. Steinberg, all

of Columbia, for respondent.

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Stevenson v. State

MOORE, A.J.: Petitioner pled guilty to thirteen counts of

forgery then filed this application for post-conviction relief (PCR) which was

denied. We granted a writ of certiorari to review the denial of relief and now

reverse.

FACTS

Petitioner was not represented by counsel during her guilty plea

proceeding. The plea judge told petitioner:

You have a right to a lawyer. You have a right to a

trial by jury. You do not have to testify. The State is

required to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable

doubt. If you do not testify, I'd charge the jury they

could not hold that against you. And you still want

to plead guilty?

Petitioner indicated that she wished to plead guilty, and the

proceeding continued until petitioner said she would fail a drug test if one

were given to her. At that point, the plea judge accepted her plea, ordered a

drug test, and stated he would sentence her the next morning.

The next morning, the plea judge again told petitioner she had a

right to a lawyer and asked if she had a lawyer. Petitioner responded that

she did not. The plea judge said, "You have a right to a lawyer. You want to

give up that right and plead guilty?" Petitioner indicated that she did, and

the guilty plea proceeding continued.

Before sentencing, the plea judge was informed that petitioner

was on probation for simple possession of crack cocaine. The plea judge

sentenced petitioner on the forgery counts and ordered that petitioner's

probation be terminated, revoked, or allowed to run with the forgery

sentence, stating "this is a flat sentence."

ISSUE

Did the PCR court err in concluding that petitioner knowingly

and intelligently waived her right to counsel?

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Stevenson v. State

DISCUSSION

The Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to counsel to criminal

defendants. U.S. CONST. amend. VI; State v. Stuckey, 333 S.C. 56, 508

S.E.2d 564 (1998). The right to counsel also attaches to probation revocation

proceedings. Salley v. State, 306 S.C. 213, 215, 410 S.E.2d 921, 922 (1991).

To establish a valid waiver of counsel, the accused must be

advised of the right to counsel and adequately warned of the dangers of self

representation. Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 835, 95 S.Ct. 2525, 2541,

45 L.Ed.2d 562, 581-82 (1975). In the absence of a specific inquiry by the

lower court addressing the dangers and disadvantages of proceeding pro se,

we look to the record to determine whether petitioner had sufficient

background or was apprised of her rights by some other source. Bridwell v.

State, 306 S.C. 518, 520, 413 S.E.2d 30, 31 (1992).

In this case, the plea judge clearly advised petitioner that she

had a right to counsel before she pled guilty. However, no one specifically

informed petitioner of the dangers and disadvantages of proceeding pro se.

Further, the record indicates petitioner lacked a sufficient background to

understand the ramifications of proceeding pro se. Petitioner does not have

a high school education and appeared in court only one time prior to these

proceedings. Moreover, petitioner's testimony during the PCR hearing

indicates that she did not understand the workings of the criminal justice

system. For example, petitioner stated that she believed a solicitor was

different from a prosecutor and that the solicitor looked out for her best

interest. See Prince v. State, 301 S.C. 422, 392 S.E.2d 462 (1990)

(determining Prince was not aware of the dangers and disadvantages of

proceeding pro se when, among other things, Prince exhibited little

understanding of criminal proceedings and testified he relied upon the

solicitor's advice at the plea proceeding).

In addition, the plea judge failed to inform petitioner that she

had a right to counsel during her probation revocation hearing and did not

explain to petitioner the dangers and disadvantages of proceeding pro se

during her probation revocation hearing.

We find the record does not demonstrate petitioner was

sufficiently aware of the dangers of self representation to make an informed

decision to proceed pro se during the plea proceeding and probation

revocation hearing. We hold the PCR judge erred in finding a valid waiver

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Stevenson v. State

of counsel. See Satterwhite v. State, 325 S.C. 254~ 481 S.E.2d 709 (1997)

(PCR judge's findings will be reversed if unsupported by any probative

evidence). Accordingly, the order of the PCR judge is

REVERSED.

FINNEY, C.J., TOAL, WALLER, and BURNETT, JJ., concur.

p. 4