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Name: Iowa v. Tovar
Case #: 02-1541
Opinion Date: 03/08/2004
Citation: 541 U.S. 77
Summary

When a defendant representing himself enters a guilty plea, a court is only required to advise him of the charges against him, of his right to be counseled regarding his plea, and of the range of allowable punishments attendant upon the entry of a guilty plea. Here the Iowa Supreme Court, in considering a defendant’s challenge to a prior conviction, had held that the prior conviction could not be used to enhance the defendant’s sentence because he was not sufficiently advised of the consequences of going forward without an attorney at the time he entered that plea. The Iowa court held that a court taking a plea must advise a pro per defendant of the consequences of entering a plea without an attorney, i.e., that self-representation might lead to the overlooking of a valid defense and would deprive him of an independent opinion as to whether pleading guilty was a wise decision. The United States Supreme Court unanimously rejected this argument, holding that the law ordinarily considers a waiver to be knowing, intelligent, and sufficiently aware if the defendant understands the nature of the right as it would apply in general circumstances. Further, where a defendant challenges by collateral attack the actual voluntariness of a given plea, he bears the burden of showing that he did not competently and intelligently waive his right to the assistance of counsel; here, the defendant made no such claim.