Criminal Defense Lawyer Refuses to Participate in Client's DUI Trial
By: Chris Kramer
If you've been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), you're most likely depending on your criminal defense attorney to handle the specifics of your criminal trial; how to plead, what witnesses to call, which jurors to pick-all these details are the lawyer's domain. So what happens when your lawyer decides not to participate?
Darrell Cannon, a Texas man charged with DUI, had exactly that problem, according to Law.com. His defense lawyer, Christopher Hoover, refused to participate in Cannon's DUI trial. But, luckily for Cannon, Hoover's inaction was a conscious decision.
Sources indicate that Hoover was not ready for trial when a judge insisted that the courtroom proceedings begin. Despite repeated requests for continuance, the judge reportedly refused to postpone the case. When Hoover determined that he would be unable to present an adequate defense for his client at the date assigned by the judge, he made the decision to do nothing.
By basically sitting on the sidelines of the trial, Hoover believed he was helping his client, according to sources. One of the rights outlined by the U.S. Constitution is the right to effective counsel-meaning, in part, a lawyer who actively tries to provide a legitimate defense. So, Hoover reasoned, if Cannon was found guilty at trial, he would have an excellent reason to appeal the decision.
Apparently, he was right.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in a 5-4 decision to dismiss Cannon's conviction, reasoning that he was denied his right to effective counsel. Law.com reports that this decision is relatively rare, since "ineffective counsel" rulings usually don't happen in direct appeals.
But in this case, Hoover's inaction was glaringly obvious. He allegedly refused to contribute to jury selection, witness cross-examination, opening or closing arguments and even plea-offering. According to reports, he was worried that if he took any action at all, the appeals court would have reason to find his counsel effective.
So what does this mean for other criminal defense trials? Will lawyers everywhere start using this technique when they want extra time to prepare?
Some experts are apparently worried that attorneys will take a cue from Hoover and provide ineffective counsel to their clients as time-buying tactic. But others doubt the practice will catch on.
Texas State law requires lawyers to defend clients when ordered to do so, and to continue advising them, within reason, even after the trial is over. The exceptions are few and specific. And some people believe that Hoover's case cannot actually qualify as one of the exceptions.
Reports show that Hoover was aware of the potential consequences of his decision to sit out Cannon's trial: he could face serious disciplinary action from the Texas Bar Association. But, sources indicate, Hoover believed he had a duty to his client-and that duty could not have been fulfilled by what little defense he was prepared to present at the time of the trial.
For now, the appeals court has reportedly decided not to report Hoover to the Bar Association, since they don't think he violated any rules. But, according to the county District Attorney, Cannon will certainly be tried again if adequate evidence is found.