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Name: Alabama v. Shelton
Case #: 00-1214
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 05/20/2002
Subsequent History: Cross-cites: 152 L.Ed.2d 888; 122 S.Ct. 1764

Appellant represented himself in a misdemeanor case. Although he was repeatedly warned about the dangers of self-representation, he was at no time offered the assistance of counsel. He was convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to probation with a suspended 30-day jail sentence. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, holding that absent and knowing and intelligent waiver, the assistance counsel is required for conviction of a misdemeanor that actually leads to imprisonment, even for a brief period. Here, the Supreme Court affirmed that decision, holding that failure to appoint counsel to an indigent defendant bars the imposition of a suspended or probationary sentence upon conviction of a misdemeanor, where the defendant can be incarcerated if probation is revoked. Once the jail term is triggered, the defendant is incarcerated not for the probation violation but for the underlying offense. The un-counseled conviction at that point results in the actual deprivation of liberty which the Sixth Amendment does not allow.