OPINION OF THE COURT
ALDISERT, Circuit Judge.
The appellant pleaded guilty to the illegal sale of narcotic drugs in violation of 21 U.S.C.A. § 174 and was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. Under the provisions of Section 7237 of Title 26, he was not eligible for parole because of previous violations of the narcotics laws.
The reception of the plea took place in 1962, before the 1966 amendments to Federal Criminal Rule 11 which added the requirement that a guilty plea be entered with an understanding of its "consequences".
Following an evidentiary hearing,
After oral argument of the appeal before this Court, the Supreme Court held in McCarthy v. United States, 394 U.S. 459, 89 S.Ct. 1166, 22 L.Ed.2d 418 (April 2, 1969), that non-compliance with Rule 11 in accepting a guilty plea vitiates the plea and necessitates the opportunity to plead anew — thus adopting the "automatic prejudice" rule of Heiden v. United States, 353 F.2d 53 (9 Cir. 1965). In so doing, the Supreme Court rejected this Court's holdings in Miller v. United States, 356 F.2d 515 (3 Cir. 1966) and United States v. DelPiano, 386 F.2d 436 (3 Cir. 1967) that non-compliance with Rule 11 "does not per se require a vacation of sentence and plea. The inquiry is whether the plea was in fact voluntary." 386 F.2d at 437.
But we may not apply the McCarthy rule of "automatic prejudice" to the plea
Accordingly, it becomes necessary to examine the circumstances surrounding the enty of the plea from the viewpoint of pre-McCarthy standards. In so doing, we have concluded that the appellant's plea was not entered with a proper understanding of its consequences and must therefore be vacated. We reach this conclusion because we regard the test of prejudice applied by the district court as improper.
The court below concluded from its evidentiary hearing that at the time the appellant entered his plea, he was unaware that he would be ineligible for parole.
The court's reasoning is based on a false conception of "prejudice." Whether prejudice resulted from the entry of the guilty plea is not measured by the severity or leniency of the sentence imposed; prejudice inheres when an accused pleads guilty, thus convicting himself of a criminal offense, without understanding the significance or consequences of his action. Accordingly, our task is to determine whether it is possible
The Supreme Court has consistently applied stringent standards for testing the validity of a plea of guilty. These requirements, recently reviewed by this Court in United States ex rel. Crosby v. Brierley, 404 F.2d 790 (3 Cir. 1968), emphasize that an essential ingredient of a guilty plea is that it be entered "voluntarily after proper advice and with full understanding of the consequences."
It is important to note, however, that not every result of a plea is a "consequence" within the meaning of Rule 11. For example, this Court held in United States v. Cariola, 323 F.2d 180 (3 Cir. 1963), that the failure of the trial court to advise a defendant of the possible loss of state voting rights as a result of conviction did not invalidate the entry of a guilty plea.
We are aware of the inclinations of some courts to suggest that the ineligibility for parole should be similarly categorized. In Smith v. United States, 116 U.S.App.D.C. 404, 324 F.2d 436, 441 (1963), cert. denied 376 U.S. 967, 84 S.Ct. 978, 11 L.Ed.2d 975 (1964), the court held that "eligibility for parole is not a `consequence' of a plea of guilty, but a matter of legislative grace." The same conclusion was reached in Trujillo v. United States, 377 F.2d 266 (5 Cir. 1967), cert. denied 389 U.S. 899, 88 S.Ct. 224, 19 L.Ed.2d 221.
Under ordinary circumstances, it should not become necessary for a trial court to include an explanation of probation or parole in its inquiry into the defendant's understanding of his plea. But the circumstances here were not ordinary. The particular status of this defendant as a narcotics recidivist brought into mechanical operation a Congressional directive severely restricting the freedom of action of not only the sentencing judge but the entire apparatus of the Board of Parole.
In any normal sentencing procedure in the federal courts, a sentence prescribing a number of years of imprisonment generally means that the defendant may expect to serve approximately one-third of this term with good conduct. Probation and parole are concepts which our society has come to accept as natural incidents of rehabilitation during imprisonment.
This is not true where, as here, because of a Congressional directive tucked away in a relatively obscure section of the Internal Revenue Code, a narcotics offender is faced with the unconditional loss of probation and parole. This loss becomes an inseparable ingredient of the punishment imposed. Its effect is so powerful that it translates the term imposed by the sentencing judge into a mandate of actual imprisonment for a period of time three times as long as that ordinarily expected.
The mandate of Rule 11, before and after the 1966 amendment, is designed to insure that the pleader is made aware of the outer limits of punishment. At the very least, this means that he must be apprised of the period of required incarceration. Except for capital punishment, no other consequence can be as significant to an accused as the period of possible confinement. When one enters a plea of guilty he should be told what is the worst to expect. At the plea he is entitled to no less — at sentence he should expect no more.
Under such circumstances, the knowledge of ineligibility for parole is as necessary to an understanding of the plea as is the knowledge of the maximum
We therefore reach the same conclusion as did the Ninth Circuit in Munich v. United States, 337 F.2d 356 (1964): "[O]ne who, at the time of entering a plea of guilty, is not aware of the fact that he would not be eligible for probation or parole, does not plead with understanding of the consequences of such a plea."
Accordingly, the judgment of the district court will be reversed and the case remanded with directions to vacate the judgment of conviction and sentence in order to afford the appellant a new opportunity to plead to the indictment.
18 U.S.C.A. § 4202 states: "A Federal prisoner, other than a juvenile delinquent * * * wherever confined and serving a definite term or terms of over [one year] whose record shows that he has observed the rules of the institution in which he is confined, may be released on parole after serving one-third of such term or terms or after serving fifteen years of a life sentence."