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Commonwealth v. Carlson

Pennsylvania Superior Court

December 21, 2020

In Commonwealth v. Carlson, prior to trial, the public defender (“PD”) filed a motion to withdraw, asserting that the defendant’s job rendered him ineligible for the PD’s services. The trial court granted the motion. Before trial, the defendant asserted that he was unable to afford counsel, but the trial court did not conduct an inquiry or appoint counsel. The defendant was subsequently convicted after a jury trial in which he represented himself. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the convictions. The Court held that the trial court violated Pa.R.Crim.P. 120(B)(3) because, when the court permitted the PD to withdraw, the court did not determine whether new counsel would be entering an appearance, new  counsel would be appointed, or the defendant would be proceeding pro se. Moreover, the trial court also failed to analyze the defendant’s eligibility for appointed counsel under Pa.R.Crim.P.  122.

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