Bearden v. Georgia

LOCATION: New Jersey General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 81-6633
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 461 US 660 (1983)
ARGUED: Jan 11, 1983
DECIDED: May 24, 1983

George M. Weaver - for respondent
James H. Lohr - appointed by this Court, pro hac vice

Facts of the case


Media for Bearden v. Georgia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 11, 1983 in Bearden v. Georgia

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Bearden against Georgia.

Mr. Lohr, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

James H. Lohr:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case involves the revocation of an indigent's probation for his failure to pay a fine and restitution which was imposed as a condition of his probation.

Mr. Bearden has received a three-year probated sentence.

The condition was that he pay $750 as fine and restitution.

Two hundred dollars had to be paid almost immediately.

This was paid by his parents.

Within the next four months, he had to come up with and pay the balance, which is $550.

Approximately one month after this sentence was imposed, he was laid off.

He became unemployed.

From that period until the time of the revocation hearing, he did not gain employment, although the record shows that he tried to gain employment.

He was without funds.

He was without property.

I think he was what we might call functionally indigent.

The trial court held the revocation hearing and revoked it on two grounds, as I understand what the trial court did.

It revoked it on his failure to pay the fine and restitution.

Secondly, it revoked it on his failure to report to his probation officer regularly.

That, of course, was not a ground stated in the petition to revoke.

In fact, I don't believe there was any evidence to support that finding, and the Georgia Court of Appeals held that even if the trial court did rely upon the failure to revoke the probation... or revoke the probation for his failure to report, that the revocation rested upon an alternate independent ground which was sufficient, and that was that he failed to pay his fine and restitution, which was a condition of his probation.

The Georgia Supreme Court denied a petition to review this discretionary appeal, and there are two other important factors I should mention in this case.

First of all, the petitioner was serving his probation under what we call the Georgia First Offenders Act.

Under that Act, when a person is convicted or enters a plea of guilty, the court suspends further proceedings and places him on probation.

If he successfully completes his term of probation, he is discharged without an adjudication of guilt, no criminal record, no criminal purpose.

On the other hand, if his probation is revoked, the trial court then at the revocation hearing enter an adjudication of guilt and sentence the defendant to any sentence that it could have originally imposed.

In this case, it would have been 20 years for the burglary and ten years for the theft by receiving.

The only condition is that he must be given credit for the time that he was on probation.

Now, in this case, when the trial court originally revoked his probation, it sentenced him to five years to serve.

It was a three-year term of probation.

It sentenced him to five years to serve.

On a motion on behalf of the defendant, this was reduced to the remaining balance of his probation, in line with the Georgia case of Stevens versus State.