Appeal from the Supreme Court of the State of Florida. [322 U.S. 4, 5] Mr. Raymer F. Maguire, of Orlandc, Fla., for appellant.
Mr. John C. Wynn, of Tallahassee, Fla., for appellee.
Mr. Justice JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.
Appellant Pollock questions the validity of a statute of the State of Florida making it a misdemeanor to induce advances with intent to defraud by a promise to perform labor and further making failure to perform labor for which money has been obtained prima facie evidence of intent to defraud. 1 It conflicts, he says, with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution and with the antipeonage statute enacted by Congress thereunder. Claims also are made under the due process and equal [322 U.S. 4, 6] protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment which we find it unnecessary to consider.
Pollock was arrested January 5, 1943, on a warrant issued three days before which charged that on the 17th of October, 1942, he did 'with intent to injure and defraud under and by reason of a contract and promise to perform labor and service, procure and obtain money, to-wit: the sum of $ 5.00, as advances from one J. V. O'Albora, a corporation, contrary to the statute in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Florida.' He was taken before the county judge on the same day, entered a plea of guilty, and was sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and in default to serve sixty days in the county jail. He was immediately committed.
On January 11, 1943, a writ of habeas corpus was issued by the judge of the circuit court, directed to the jail keeper, who is appellee here. Petition for the writ challenged the constitutionality of the statutes under which Pollock was confined and set forth that 'at the trial aforesaid, he was not told that he was entitled to counsel, and that counsel would be provided for him if he wished, and he did not know that he had such right. Petitioner was without funds and unable to employ counsel. He further avers that he did not understand the nature of the charge against him, but understood that if he owed any money to his prior employer and had quit his employment without paying the same, he was guilty, which facts he admitted.' The Sheriff's return makes no denial of these allegations, but merely sets forth that he holds the prisoner by virtue of the commitment 'based upon the judgment and conviction as set forth in the petition.' The Supreme Court of Florida has said that 'undenied allegations of the petition are taken as true.' 2 [322 U.S. 4, 7] The Circuit Court held the statutes under which the case was prosecuted to be unconstitutional and discharged the prisoner. The Supreme Court of Florida reversed. 3 It read our decisions in Bailey v. Alabama4 and Taylor v. Georgia5 to hold that similar laws are not in conflict with the Constitution in so far as they denounce the crime, but only in declaring the prima facie evidence rule. It stated that its first impression was that the entire Florida act would fall, as did that of Georgia, but on reflection it concluded that our decisions were called forth by operation of the presumption, and did not condemn the substantive part of the statute where the presumption was not brought into play. As the prisoner had pleaded guilty, the Florida court thought the presumption had played no part in this case, and therefore remanded the prisoner to custody. An appeal to this Court was taken and probable jurisdiction noted.