Is Preliminary Investigation to Determine Defendant's Entitlement to a New Lawyer on Motion to Withdraw a Guilty Plea Mandatory ?
In People v. Cabrales, 325 Ill. App. 3d 1, 756 N.E.2d 461, 258 Ill. Dec. 479 (2001), the defendant pled guilty to two counts of criminal sexual assault, and the trial court imposed a sentence.
Following sentencing, the defendant's attorney filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea.
At the hearing on the motion, the defendant told the trial court that he wished to proceed with his own motion to withdraw the guilty plea, which alleged that his attorney provided ineffective assistance.
The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the defendant's pro se motion in which the defendant and his attorney testified and were cross-examined by the State.
After hearing the evidence, the trial denied the defendant's pro se motion.
The defendant appealed, arguing that the case had to be remanded so that the trial court could conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether he was entitled to appointment of a new attorney to represent him on his motion to withdraw. Cabrales, 325 Ill. App. 3d 1, 756 N.E.2d 461, 258 Ill. Dec. 479.
The appellate court found that the trial court improperly proceeded to a full hearing on the merits of the defendant's pro se motion without first conducting a preliminary investigation to determine whether to appoint conflict counsel.
The appellate court stated:
"There is no per se rule that a defendant is entitled to a new attorney if he files a pro se motion challenging his trial attorney's representation.
Rather, when a defendant files a pro se motion arguing that his trial counsel is ineffective, the trial court should conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether the defendant's claim is valid.
During this preliminary investigation, the trial court should examine the factual basis for the defendant's claim and determine whether the defendant's claim concerns trial tactics, trial strategies, or possible neglect by the defendant's trial attorney.
If the factual basis for the ineffective assistance of counsel claim shows that the defendant's trial counsel may have neglected the defendant's case, the trial court should appoint a new attorney who can make an independent evaluation of the defendant's claim and present the cause to the trial court in a detached yet adversarial manner." Cabrales, 325 Ill. App. 3d at 5, 756 N.E.2d at 464-65.