McKayla A. Doss

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For decades, Georgia’s trial courts have applied the absolute rule that pro se motions filed by represented (or presumably represented) criminal defendants were a legal nullity. In essence, hybrid representation was not permitted—legal representation precluded criminal defendants from acting as “co-counsel” or filing their own pro se motions.The application of this absolute rule substantially affected the time-sensitive period that follows a criminal conviction, as defendants in Georgia have a limited period of time to file a notice of appeal or a motion for new trial before the window of direct appeal closes. Failure to file these motions results in the loss of the defendant’s right to direct appeal and review. When the system works as intended, the defendant’s counsel submits the proper filings and seeks the appropriate review. However, if counsel fails to properly file a notice of appeal or a motion for new trial, criminal defendants may be left without effective representation during the dwindling appeal window and are faced with an absolute rule which eliminates the self-help option of filing pro se.