Justices Reverse Conviction Over Incomplete Advisement Forms


Marilyn Odendahl for www.theindianalawyer.com

Mohamed Dadouch was found guilty at a bench trial of a Class A misdemeanor domestic battery. He had signed two separate advisement of rights forms, but when he filed motions to continue the trial date and set the case for a jury trial, the Knox Superior Court denied the request for a jury trial as untimely.

Dadouch’s counsel argued he had asked his prior counsel to request a jury trial but no demand was filed. The attorney speculated there may have been a “linguistic barrier.”

Again, the court denied the request for a jury trial and set a date for a bench trial. At the start of that hearing, Dadouch renewed his demand for a jury to hear his case, but the court proceeded with the bench trial and found him guilty.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction in a memorandum decision filed March 14, 2019.

However, the Indiana Supreme Court took a closer look at the two advisement forms and found neither completely explained the rights defendants charged with misdemeanors have to demand a jury trial.

In particular, neither form advised Dadouch he had to file for a jury trial no later than 10 days before the scheduled trial date, and that failure to file would automatically waive his right. Also, by the time he signed the second advisement form, the deadline to request a jury trial had passed.

The Supreme Court granted transfer and in a per curiam decision reversed Dadouch’s conviction in Mohamed M Dadouch v. State of Indiana, 19S-CR-404. Noting they agreed with the Court of Appeals that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction, the justices pointed out the state is free to retry the defendant.

Also, the justices offered some advice to trial courts handling misdemeanor cases.

“While it is not required that trial judges use a written advisement of rights form in misdemeanor cases, it is the best practice and we urge all trial judges to incorporate an accurate one into their practices,” the Supreme Court wrote. “The very best practice in these cases is to use both a written advisement of rights form together with the dialogue to insure that a reversal does not occur.”