Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Alabama v. Shelton case brief

Alabama v. Shelton case brief summary
535 U.S. 654 (2002)

Respondent indigent defendant was convicted of misdemeanor assault without assistance of counsel, and his sentence included a suspended term of incarceration during his probation. Upon the grant of a writ of certiorari, petitioner State appealed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Alabama which vacated defendant's suspended sentence, holding that the suspended jail term could not be imposed without assistance of counsel.

The State contended that, since defendant was not actually incarcerated, his right to counsel did not attach. Defendant argued that, although imprisonment was not immediate or inevitable, the lack of counsel prohibited the State from imposing the suspended incarceration.

  • The United States Supreme Court held that defendant's suspended sentence, which could result in the actual deprivation of defendant's liberty, could not be imposed unless defendant was accorded the assistance of counsel in the prosecution for his assault charge. 
  • The invocation of the suspended incarceration would not be merely a penalty of violating probation, which could be cured by providing counsel for probation revocation proceedings, but was rather a prison term imposed for the assault offense of which defendant was convicted without the assistance of counsel. 
  • The United States Constitution required that, before the sentence of incarceration could be imposed, even if it were suspended, the assault conviction itself must be subjected to meaningful adversarial testing.

The judgment vacating defendant's suspended sentence was affirmed.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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