Chandler v. Fretag - 348 U.S. 3 (1954)
U.S. Supreme Court
Chandler v. Fretag, 348 U.S. 3 (1954)
Chandler v. Fretag
Argued October 18, 1954
Decided November 8, 1954
348 U.S. 3
Petitioner was indicted for housebreaking and larceny, which was punishable by imprisonment for three to ten years. At his trial in a state court, he was advised orally for the first time that, because of three prior convictions for felonies, he would be tried also as an habitual criminal, and, if convicted, would be sentenced to life imprisonment. He asked for a continuance to enable him to obtain counsel on the habitual criminal accusation, but this was denied, and he was forced to stand trial immediately, and without counsel. He pleaded guilty to housebreaking and larceny, was convicted on both that charge and the habitual criminal accusation, and was sentenced to three years on the former charge and to life imprisonment on the latter.
Held: by denying petitioner any opportunity to obtain counsel on the habitual criminal accusation, the trial court deprived him of the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 348 U. S. 4-10.
(a) By waiving counsel on the housebreaking and larceny charge, petitioner did not waive any right to counsel on the habitual criminal accusation. Pp. 348 U. S. 6-9.
(b) Regardless of whether petitioner would have been entitled to have counsel appointed by the court, his right to be heard through his own counsel was unqualified. Betts v. Brady, 316 U. S. 455, distinguished. Pp. 348 U. S. 9-10.
After serving a sentence of three years for housebreaking and larceny, petitioner applied to a Tennessee Circuit Court for release on a writ of habeas corpus from a life sentence as an habitual criminal. This was denied, and the Supreme Court of Tennessee affirmed. This Court granted certiorari. 347 U.S. 933. Reversed, p. 348 U. S. 10.