Giaccio v. Pennsylvania

PETITIONER: Giaccio
RESPONDENT: Pennsylvania
LOCATION: General Petroleum Corporation

DOCKET NO.: 47
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 382 US 399 (1966)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1965
DECIDED: Jan 19, 1966

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Giaccio v. Pennsylvania

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 06, 1965 in Giaccio v. Pennsylvania

Earl Warren:

Number 47, J. Giaccio, Appellant, versus Pennsylvania.

Peter Hearn:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Hearn.

Peter Hearn:

Thank you sir.

This appeal from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania challenges the constitutionality of a Pennsylvania statute which provides that when a defendant is acquitted of a misdemeanor, the jury may, nevertheless, impose court costs upon him enforceable by commitment to jail.

In this case, following defendant's acquittal, the costs were assessed upon him. He thereupon filed a motion for relief of costs which was granted by the trial court because it held the act was unconstitutional in that it was void for vagueness and that it violated certain procedural due process protections.

The statute --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

How much were the costs?

Peter Hearn:

$230.95 sir.

On appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, this result was reversed and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the reversal, and on May 24th this Court noted its probable jurisdiction.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

What does this cost cover?

Peter Hearn:

Most sir, were witness fees.

I believe about a $180 per witness fees.

There were some -- for the Constable, some for the Justice of the Peace, and I believe that took care of just about --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

There's no transcript cost?

Peter Hearn:

No, sir, there is not.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

No ordinarily is that the case?

Peter Hearn:

Well sir, I cannot speak from personal experience as to whether that is or is not as a matter of custom in other cases included.

Earl Warren:

When justice of peace received a part of his salary from the fees of this kind?

Peter Hearn:

Well, sir, I know that in Philadelphia County, he does not from which I come, but in Chester County from which this case comes, I believe he does but I'm not certain.

Earl Warren:

I see.

Peter Hearn:

The statute itself contains no standard whatsoever on its face.

It merely provides that the jury may impose costs upon an acquitted defendant.

If the jury does, the court and to use the statutory language, “shall forth with pass sentence to that effect and order him to be committed to the jail of the county until the costs are paid, unless he gives security.”

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

How old is this case?

Peter Hearn:

The particular statute was enacted in 1860.

However, its predecessor was -- which was exactly the same in statutory language was enacted in 1804.

Therefore, on its face, the statute provides no standard which restricts in any manner the uncontrolled and arbitrary discretion of the jury in its practice.

Furthermore, the decisions have not removed this unconstitutional vagueness and I submit that the jury charge in this particular case was typical of jury charges in Pennsylvania and was in-line with the Pennsylvania authorities which attempted to construe this act.

In this case, the jury was charged where defendant is found not guilty of a misdemeanor, but the jury finds that he is been guilty of some misconduct less than the offense which is charged, but nevertheless, misconduct of some kind as a result of which, he should be required to pay some penalty short of conviction.