Duncan v. Louisiana
Under Louisiana law simple battery is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of two years' imprisonment and a $300 fine. Appellant was convicted of simple battery and sentenced to 60 days in prison and a fine of $150. He had requested a jury trial which was denied because the Louisiana Constitution grants jury trials only in cases where capital punishment or imprisonment at hard labor may be imposed. The Louisiana Supreme Court denied certiorari. Held:
1. Since trial by jury in criminal cases is fundamental to the American scheme of justice, the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees a right of jury trial in all criminal cases which, were they tried in a federal court, would come within the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of trial by jury. Pp. 147–158.
2. The penalty authorized for a particular crime is of major relevance in determining whether it is a serious one subject to the mandates of the Sixth Amendment, and it is sufficient here, without defining the boundary between petty offenses and serious crimes, to hold that a crime punishable by two years in prison is a serious crime and that appellant was entitled to a jury trial. Pp. 159–162.
250 La. 253, 195 So. 2d 142, reversed and remanded.
Dorothy D. Wolbrette, Assistant Attorney General of Louisiana, argued the cause for appellee. With her on the brief were Jack P. F. Gremillion, Attorney General, William P. Schuler, Second Assistant Attorney General, L. K. Clement, Jr., and John M. Currier, Assistant Attorneys General, Leander H. Perez, Jr., and Lawrence L. McNamara.
Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General, Samuel A. Hirshowitz, First Assistant Attorney General, and Michael H. [p146] Rauch, Assistant Attorney General, filed a brief for the State of New York, as amicus curiae.