Constitutional Law – Due Process – Right of Second Offender to Pre-Sentence Hearing Regarding Prior Conviction

Relator was convicted of burglary in 1953 and of voluntary manslaughter in 1954. While passing sentence after the latter conviction, the court declared that it was exercising its discretion under the Habitual Criminal Act by imposing a double penalty on the relator. Neither relator nor his counsel objected to the procedure or demanded a hearing regarding the prior conviction. On petition for writ of habeas corpus, which was denied by the lower court, relator admitted the fact of his prior conviction. He asserted, however, that although the habitual criminal statute in terms contains no provision granting alleged second offenders notice and a hearing regarding the prior conviction, the trial court’s failure to accord him such notice and hearing violated procedural due process. On appeal, held, cause remanded for resentencing. In order to avoid a constitutional due process question, the Habitual Criminal Act will be construed to require the trial court to give an alleged second offender, before sentencing, notice and a hearing as to the prior conviction, even though the defendant is in fact a second offender and subject to an increased term. Pennsylvania ex rel. Dermendzin v. Myers, 397 Pa. 607, 156 A. 2d 804 (1959).