The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 13 of Indiana’s Constitution guarantee a defendant charged with a crime the right to be present at his or her own trial. See Campbell v. State, 732 N.E.2d 197, 204 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000). However, that right is not absolute. The right, under both the federal and state constitution, may be waived if such waiver is made knowingly and voluntarily. Both federal and state courts have held that significantly disruptive or contemptuous conduct by a defendant can function as a knowing and voluntary waiver of their right to be present. Id.; Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337, 343 (1970).
In Wilson, a defendant had an outburst, struggled with the court bailiffs, and yelled out a few words of profanity in the courtroom. Wilson v. State, 30 N.E.3d 1264, 1270 (Ind. Ct. App.), transfer denied, 35 N.E.3d 671 (Ind. 2015). The trial court was determining whether to hold the defendant in contempt and exclude him from his trial. The court stated, “Mr. Wilson, you had quite an incredible outburst just now…. I’ll give you one opportunity to try to explain yourself before I decide whether I should hold you in contempt of court.” Shortly thereafter, when the defendant stated, “F* * * a appeal,” the court responded, “[o]h, no, no, no. I hold you in contempt…. I think you forfeited your right to be a part of this case, for this last phase of the trial.” The Court of Appeals upheld that defendant’s exclusion from the trial court.
Looking for a Hamilton County criminal defense attorney that understands your criminal and appellate rights? Contact the attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP today if you have questions or believe your constitutional or criminal rights have been violated. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case. Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.