The Criminal Sentence.

A convicted defendant may not be imprisoned solely because of his indigency. Williams v. Illinois2153 held that it was a denial of equal protection for a state to extend the term of imprisonment of a convicted defendant beyond the statutory maximum provided because he was unable to pay the fine that was also levied upon conviction. And Tate v. Short2154 held that, in situations in which no term of confinement is prescribed for an offense but only a fine, the court may not jail persons who cannot pay the fine, unless it is impossible to develop an alternative, such as installment payments or fines scaled to ability to pay. Willful refusal to pay may, however, be punished by confinement.

Footnotes

2153
399 U.S. 235 (1970). back
2154
401 U.S. 395 (1971). The Court has not yet treated a case in which the permissible sentence is “$30 or 30 days” or some similar form where either confinement or a fine will satisfy the State’s penal policy. back