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Name: United States v. Howard
Case #: 02-16228
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 08/25/2004

A defendant who accepted a plea bargain while under the influence of a narcotic pain killer was entitled to a hearing on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. At the plea proceedings in this case, the trial court asked the defendant if he was under the influence of alcohol or a narcotic drug, and defendant replied that he was taking Percocet for pain. The judge noted that that was “pretty tough stuff” but did not further inquire as to whether the drug was interfering with defendant’s ability to make decisions. The defendant later sought an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether his counsel was ineffective in allowing him to plead guilty while he was under the influence of Percocet. The reviewing court held that he was entitled to such a hearing, because the record affirmatively showed that he was under the influence of a powerful narcotic that could have affected his reasoning. While the record did not affirmatively show that counsel was ineffective, the last minute nature of the plea, combined with the evidence of defendant’s impairment, were sufficient to permit an evidentiary hearing on the issue.