The Procedure to Be Followed When a Defendant Complains That His Appointed Counsel Is Incompetent
In Hardwick v. State, 521 So. 2d 1071 (Fla.1988), this Court adopted the procedure announced in Nelson v. State, 274 So. 2d 256 (Fla. 4th DCA 1973), to be followed when a defendant complains that his appointed counsel is incompetent.
When this occurs, the trial judge is required to make a sufficient inquiry of the defendant to determine whether or not appointed counsel is rendering effective assistance to the defendant.
However, as a practical matter, the trial judge's inquiry can only be as specific as the defendant's complaint.
This Court has consistently found a Nelson hearing unwarranted where a defendant presents general complaints about defense counsel's trial strategy and no formal allegations of incompetence have been made. See Davis v. State, 703 So. 2d 1055, 1058-59 (Fla.1997); Gudinas v. State, 693 So. 2d 953, 962 n. 12 (Fla.1997); Branch v. State, 685 So. 2d 1250, 1252 (Fla.1996).
Similarly, a trial court does not err in failing to conduct a Nelson inquiry where the defendant merely expresses dissatisfaction with his attorney. See Davis, 703 So. 2d at 1058-59; Branch, 685 So. 2d at 1252; Dunn v. State, 730 So. 2d 309, 311-12 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999).
In Dunn, the Fourth District determined that no Nelson hearing was required where the defendant expressed dissatisfaction with his counsel's trial preparation, his witness development, and his lack of contact with the defendant. See Dunn, 730 So. 2d at 312.
According to the district court, the defendant was not clearly alleging that defense counsel was incompetent. See id.
A lack of communication is not a ground for an incompetency claim. See Watts v. State, 593 So. 2d 198, 203 (Fla.1992); Parker v. State, 570 So. 2d 1053 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990).
Moreover, in Branch, this Court found Nelson inapplicable where a defendant questioned defense counsel's preparation for trial, as well as the amount of communication he had with the defendant. See Branch, 685 So. 2d at 1250;
See also Gudinas, 693 So. 2d at 962 n. 12 (stating that a Nelson inquiry was not required because the defendant's claim was a general complaint about defense's trial strategy and not a formal allegation of incompetence).