LA: Automatic denial of pro se motion to suppress filed by represented defendant was error; counsel needs to review

Trial court erred in denying defendant’s pro se motion to suppress solely because he was represented by counsel. At least as a matter of state law, it’s up to defense counsel to assess the motion and decide what to do about it. State v. Thibodeaux, 2017 La. LEXIS 2815 (La. Dec. 6, 2017):

We find the procedure crafted by the court of appeal in Alexander best safeguards a defendant’s rights to due process, access to the courts, and to the assistance of counsel, while also affording the trial court the opportunity to prevent confusion or disruption of the trial process that is risked by the filing of pro-se motions by a represented defendant. That is not to say, however, that a hearing like that envisioned in Alexander will be necessary every time a represented defendant files a pro-se motion and defendant must in each instance necessarily be asked to choose between continued representation of counsel or having his pro-se motion considered. In many instances, counsel may simply wish to adopt the pro-se filing or the trial court can review the motion and assess its potential for confusion, disruption, or reversible error. Regardless, however, the trial court’s use of a stamp to reflexively deny all pro-se filings by a represented defendant is inadequate to safeguard the defendant’s rights while ensuring the efficient and orderly administration of criminal justice.

Therefore, we reverse the court of appeal’s ruling and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the views expressed herein. The trial court is directed to determine whether defense counsel wishes to adopt defendant’s pro-se motion to suppress and, if counsel does not, evaluate its disruptive potential in light of Melon before determining whether to conduct a hearing consistent with Alexander.

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