Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gideon v. Wainwright case brief

Gideon v. Wainwright case brief summary
372 U.S. 335 (1963)

Petitioner inmate's state habeas corpus petition attacking his felony conviction for breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor and his five-year prison sentence was denied by the Supreme Court of Florida. The court granted certiorari.

The inmate's charged offense was a felony under Florida law. He appeared in state court without funds and without a lawyer and asked the court to appoint counsel for him. The state court refused because only a defendant in a capital offense was entitled to appointed counsel. The inmate was convicted. He challenged his conviction and sentence on the ground that the trial court's refusal to appoint counsel for him denied him rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


  • The court held 
  • (1) the Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused the right to the assistance of counsel in all criminal prosecutions, 
  • (2) the court had construed the Sixth Amendment to require federal courts to provide counsel for defendants unable to employ counsel unless the right was competently and intelligently waived, 
  • (3) the court looked to the fundamental nature of the Bill of Rights guarantees to decide whether the Fourteenth Amendment made them obligatory on the states, 
  • (4) the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of counsel is one of the fundamental and essential rights made obligatory upon the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, and 
  • (5) Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455 (1942), was overruled.


The court reversed the denial of the inmate's habeas petition and remanded the case to the state supreme court for further proceedings.

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

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