Gideon v. Wainwright
372 U.S. 335 (1963)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)

Gideon v. Wainwright

No. 155

Argued January 15, 1963

Decided March 18, 1963

372 U.S. 335

Syllabus

Charged in a Florida State Court with a noncapital felony, petitioner appeared without funds and without counsel and asked the Court to appoint counsel for him, but this was denied on the ground that the state law permitted appointment of counsel for indigent defendants in capital cases only. Petitioner conducted his own defense about as well as could be expected of a layman, but he was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. Subsequently, he applied to the State Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, on the ground that his conviction violated his rights under the Federal Constitution. The State Supreme Court denied all relief.

Held: The right of an indigent defendant in a criminal trial to have the assistance of counsel is a fundamental right essential to a fair trial, and petitioner's trial and conviction without the assistance of counsel violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Betts v. Brady,316 U. S. 455, overruled. Pp. 372 U. S. 336-345.

Reversed and cause remanded.

Page 372 U. S. 336

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Primary Holding

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court established that the Fourteenth Amendment creates a right for criminal defendants who cannot pay for their own lawyers to have the state appoint attorneys on their behalf.