Argersinger v. Hamlin Case Brief

Why is the case important?

An indigent was convicted on a misdemeanor weapons charge. He was tried before a judge without counsel.

Facts of the case

Jon Argersinger was an indigent charged with carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor in the State of Florida. The charge carried with it a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. During the bench trial in which he was convicted and sentenced to serve ninety days in jail, Argersinger was not represented by an attorney.

Question

Whether the Sixth Amendment right of court-appointed counsel applies to only trials of non-petty offenses.

Answer

No. The Supreme Court of the United States first held that the Duncan case the Florida Court had relied upon actually limited the right to trial by jury to trials where the potential punishment was imprisonment for six months or more. The Court also noted that problems associated with the misdemeanor and petty offenses often require the presence of counsel to insure the accused a fair trial. The Court did not consider the right to counsel as applied to people facing actual jail time.

Conclusion

Upon review, the United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that the right to counsel extended to any offense, whether classified as petty, misdemeanor, or felony, for which imprisonment would be imposed. Therefore, because petitioner was imprisoned after his conviction, he was entitled to court-appointed counsel during his trial. Because he was not afforded counsel, the denial of his writ of habeas corpus was reversed.

  • Case Brief: 1972
  • Petitioner: Argersinger
  • Respondent: Hamlin
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 407 US 25 (1972)
ReArgued: Feb 28, 1972
Decided: Jun 12, 1972
Argued: Dec 6, 1971