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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ANGEL ROMAN (08/05/85)

submitted: August 5, 1985.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ANGEL ROMAN, APPELLANT



Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Erie County, Nos. 951 & 952 of 1984.

COUNSEL

Thomas D. Heberle, Erie, for appellant.

Ernest J. DiSantis, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, Erie, for Com., appellee.

Wieand, Popovich and Lipez, JJ.

Author: Wieand

[ 347 Pa. Super. Page 530]

In this appeal, Angel Roman argues that he was improperly forced to proceed to trial without counsel. We agree. Therefore, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

As a result of incidents occurring on May 4 and May 9, 1984, Roman was charged with two counts each of the following: driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance;*fn1 driving on roadways laned for traffic;*fn2 driving while his operating privilege was suspended or revoked;*fn3 and driving an unregistered vehicle.*fn4 Attorney William Morton, a member of the Erie County Public Defender's Office, initially undertook to represent Roman. However, on August 16, 1984, prior to trial, Morton filed a petition requesting leave of court to withdraw as Roman's counsel. The petition contained averments that Roman had said he did not want Morton to represent him and that it was therefore impossible to maintain an attorney-client relationship. The record does not disclose that Roman, if present when the petition was presented to the court, was then advised of his right to be represented by counsel. Similarly, it does not appear that a penetrating and comprehensive

[ 347 Pa. Super. Page 531]

    inquiry was made with respect to his understanding of this right. Nevertheless, on the same day, the trial court entered an order allowing counsel to withdraw his representation.

On September 10, 1984, the date set for trial, Roman appeared and waived the right to trial by jury. Trial without jury was set for September 18, 1984. When Roman appeared for trial on that day, the following colloquy took place.

THE COURT: . . . . I understand you do not have an attorney, Mr. Roman.

MR. ROMAN: No, sir.

THE COURT: You had one and you wanted to handle the case yourself; is that correct?

MR. ROMAN: No, sir, I --

THE COURT: You what?

MR. ROMAN: I dismissed him because there was some loss of interest on my part.

THE COURT: Didn't you have an attorney at one time, Mr. Morton?

MR. ROMAN: Yes.

THE COURT: And you didn't want him to handle it for you?

MR. ROMAN: There was a disagreement.

THE COURT: Yes, and you were offered another attorney and you said you wanted to handle it yourself three different times.

MR. ROMAN: I was not offered a different attorney.

THE COURT: I understand three different times you were offered an attorney and wanted ...


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