Tuesday, October 31, 2006

S.C. Court of Appeals issues right to counsel opinion in sex offender case

In State v. Roberson, Roberson was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender pursuant to sections 23-3-460 and 23-3-470 of the South Carolina Code. Roberson was released on bond the day after his arrest. The terms of the bond required Roberson to appear for roll call at the term of general sessions court in Dorchester County beginning on November 29, 1999. By signing the bond, Roberson acknowledged that he would be tried in his absence if he failed to appear in court. He did not appear in trial. He was tried in abstentia and convicted. Roberson eventually appeared and asked for a new trial, which was denied.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Roberson's failure to appear at trial did not constitute an affirmative waiver of his right to counsel. The Court found it significant that Roberson was never advised of proceeding without representation on the charge.

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