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Mempa v. Rhay

Citation. Mempa v. Rhay, 389 U.S. 128, 88 S. Ct. 254, 19 L. Ed. 2d 336, 1967)
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Brief Fact Summary.

A joy rider had his probation revoked on the grounds of a previous burglary. He did not have counsel.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

“A lawyer must be afforded at [a] proceeding whether it [is] labeled a revocation of probation or deferred sentencing.”


Petitioner Mempa pled guilty for “joyriding”. He was sentenced to two years probation on the condition that he spend 30 days in jail and the sentence be deferred. Four months later, the Spokane County prosecutor moved to have the petitioner’s probation revoked on the grounds that he had been involved in a burglary during his probation. At the subsequent hearing, petitioner was unrepresented by counsel. He admitted to the burglary, which was confirmed by his probation officer. The petitioner’s probation was revoked.


Whether “the right to counsel [extends to] the time of sentencing where the sentencing has been deferred subject to probation.”


Yes. The Supreme Court reasoned that “in a case such as this is the fact that certain legal rights may be lost if not exercised at this stage.” Further, the Court noted that “a plea of guilty might well be improperly obtained by the promise to have a defendant placed on the very probation the revocation of which furnishes the occasion of which furnishes the occasion for desiring to withdraw the plea.”


Counsel is of greater importance “when it is considered that the eventual imposition of sentence on the prior plea of guilty is based on the alleged commission of offense for which the accused is never tried.

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