Bolden v. Commonwealth
In Bolden v. Commonwealth, 11 Va. App. 187, 190, 397 S.E.2d 534, 536 (1990), the trial court gave Bolden in excess of one month to retain counsel.
During that time, he was granted two continuances so he could obtain counsel. Id. at 189-90, 397 S.E.2d at 535-36.
The trial court offered to provide court-appointed counsel, and Bolden refused. Id. at 190, 397 S.E.2d at 536. The trial court told Bolden that if he appeared on the trial date without counsel, he would be tried without counsel. Id. at 189, 397 S.E.2d at 536.
Bolden appeared on the date of trial without counsel and requested another continuance. Id. at 190, 397 S.E.2d at 536. The trial court denied the motion, and Bolden was tried without counsel. Id.
The Court held, "The trial court reasonably concluded that Bolden's failure to have counsel on the trial date was the result of dilatory conduct on his part and not due to any lack of opportunity to obtain counsel." Id. at 191, 397 S.E.2d at 537.
The Court wrote:
Because a defendant's assertion of his right to counsel may conflict with the government's right to an orderly and expeditious prosecution, trial courts are often faced with the dilemma of choosing between these competing interests.
Under certain circumstances, the trial court is entitled to conclude that the defendant has actually waived his right to counsel and thus can require that the defendant stand trial without the assistance of counsel.
However, in these situations, the burden is on the Commonwealth to prove "by clear, precise and unequivocal evidence" that the defendant did actually waive his right to counsel. Lemke v. Commonwealth, 218 Va. 870, 873, 241 S.E.2d 789, 791 (1978).
"'The record must show that an accused was offered counsel but intelligently and understandingly rejected the offer.'" Sargent v. Commonwealth, 5 Va. App. 143, 149, 360 S.E.2d 895, 899 (1987) (quoting Carnley v. Cochran, 369 U.S. 506, 516, 8 L. Ed. 2d 70, 82 S. Ct. 884 (1962)).