State v. Paterson, 208 N.C.App. 654, 703 S.E.2d 755 (Dec. 21, 2010)

(1) The defendant’s waiver of counsel was sufficient even though a box on the waiver form was left blank and the form was executed before the court advised the defendant of the charges and the range of punishment. Citing State v. Heatwole, 344 N.C. 1, 18 (1996), and State v. Fulp, 355 N.C. 171, 177 (2002), the court first concluded that a waiver of counsel form is not required and any deficiency in the form will not render the waiver invalid, if the waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. Next, the court concluded that the waiver was not invalid because the trial court failed to go over the charges and potential punishments prior to the defendant signing the waiver form. The trial court discussed the charges and potential punishments with the defendant the following day, and defendant confirmed his desire to represent himself in open court. Although the waiver form requires the trial judge to certify that he or she informed the defendant of the charges and punishments, given that the form is not mandatory, no prejudice occurs when the trial court does, in fact, provide that information in accordance with the statute and the defendant subsequently asserts the right to proceed pro se. (2) The trial court conducted an adequate inquiry under G.S. 15A-1242. The court noted that there is no mandatory formula for complying with the statute. Here, the trial judge explicitly informed the defendant of his right to counsel and the process to secure a court-appointed attorney; the defendant acknowledged that he understood his rights after being repeatedly asked whether he understood them and whether he was sure that he wanted to waive counsel; the judge informed him of the charges and potential punishments; and the judge explained that he would be treated the same at trial regardless of whether he had an attorney. The trial court’s colloquies at the calendar call and before trial, coupled with the defendant’s repeated assertion that he wished to represent himself, demonstrate that the defendant clearly and unequivocally expressed his desire to proceed pro se and that such expression was made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily.