U.S. Supreme Court
Oyler v. Boles, 368 U.S. 448 (1962)
Oyler v. Boles
Argued December 4, 1961
Decided February 19, 1962
368 U.S. 448
West Virginia's habitual criminal statute provides for a mandatory life sentence upon the third conviction "of a crime punishable by confinement in a penitentiary." The increased penalty is to be invoked by an information filed by the prosecuting attorney "immediately upon conviction and before sentence." In such proceedings, in which they were represented by counsel and did not request continuances or raise any matters in defense, but did concede the applicability of the statute to the circumstances of their cases, petitioners were sentenced to life imprisonment. Subsequently they petitioned the State Supreme Court for writs of habeas corpus, alleging that the Act had been applied without advance notice and to only a minority of those subject to its provisions, in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Their petitions were denied.
1. Due process does not require advance notice that the trial on the substantive offense will be followed by an habitual criminal accusation. It does require a reasonable opportunity to defend against such an accusation, but the records show that petitioners were not denied such an opportunity. Pp. 368 U. S. 451-454.
2. The failure to proceed against other offenders because of a lack of knowledge of prior offenses or because of the exercise of reasonable selectivity in enforcement does not deny equal protection to persons who are prosecuted, and petitioners did not allege that the failure to prosecute others was due to any other reason. Pp. 368 U. S. 454-456.