Ughbanks v. Armstrong
208 U.S. 481 (1908)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ughbanks v. Armstrong, 208 U.S. 481 (1908)

Ughbanks v. Armstrong

No. 43

Submitted January 20, 1908

Decided February 24, 1908

208 U.S. 481

Syllabus

The indeterminate sentence law of Michigan of 1903, as construed and sustained according to its own constitution by the highest court of that state, does not violate any provision of the federal Constitution. It is of a character similar to the Illinois act sustained by this Court in Dreyer v. Illinois,187 U. S. 71.

When a subsequently enacted criminal law is more drastic than the existing law which in terms is repealed thereby, the claim that it is ex post facto as to one imprisoned under the former law and therefore void, and that, the earlier law being repealed, he cannot be held thereunder has no force in this Court where the state court has held that the later law does not repeal the earlier law as to those sentenced thereunder. In such a case, this Court follows the construction of the state court.

The Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the federal Constitution do not limit the power of the state.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution does not limit the power of the state in dealing with crime committed within its own borders or with the punishment thereof. But a state must not deprive particular persons or classes of persons of equal and impartial justice.

This Court follows the construction of an indeterminate sentence law by the highest court of the state, to the effect that, where the maximum term of imprisonment for a crime has been fixed by statute, a maximum term fixed by the court of a shorter period is simply void.

The granting of favors by a state to criminals in its prisons is entirely a matter of policy to be determined by the legislature, which may attach thereto such conditions as it sees fit, and where it places the granting of such favors in the discretion of an executive officer, it is not bound to give the convict applying therefor a hearing.

The provision in the indeterminate law of Michigan of 1903, excepting prisoners twice sentenced before from the privilege of parole, extended in the discretion of the Executive to prisoners after the expiration of

Page 208 U. S. 482

their minimum sentence, does not deprive convict of the excepted class of their liberty without due process of law or deny to them the equal protection of the laws.

This writ of error brings up a judgment of the Supreme Court of Michigan denying the application of the plaintiff in error for a writ of habeas corpus to inquire into the cause of his detention in, and to obtain his discharge from, the state prison at Jackson.

It appears from the record that, on the seventeenth of March, 1904, the plaintiff in error was proceeded against in the Circuit Court for the County of Washtenaw, in the State of Michigan, on an information filed by the prosecuting attorney for that county charging the plaintiff in error with having committed the crime of burglary on the fifteenth of March, 1904. Upon being arraigned upon such information, he pleaded guilty and was, on the day mentioned, sentenced under the indeterminate sentence act of the state to be confined in the state prison at Jackson at hard labor for a period not less than one year and not more than two years. Public Acts of Michigan, 1903, No. 136. His term of imprisonment, counting the maximum period for which he was sentenced, ended, as he asserts, on March 17, 1906, even without any deduction for good behavior.

In his petition for the writ, plaintiff in error stated that, by the record kept and retained by the warden of the Michigan state prison at Jackson, it appeared, as plaintiff in error was advised, that he had been twice before convicted of felony, and that he had served four years in Kingston, Canada, and four years in Jackson, Michigan, on account thereof, and that he was a resident of Canada, and had never resided in the State of Michigan or in the United States.

He made application at the end of the minimum term of his sentence to the advisory board, provided for by § 4 of the above act, for his discharge on parole, but he was notified that his application could not be heard or considered for the reason

Page 208 U. S. 483

that it appeared that he had been twice before convicted of a felony, and the act provides that no person who has been twice previously convicted of a felony shall be eligible to parole.

After the expiration of the maximum term named in the sentence, being still detained in prison under the claim that the law provided a maximum term of imprisonment of five years in such a case as his, which term had not elapsed, the plaintiff in error applied to the Supreme Court of Michigan for a writ of habeas corpus to obtain his discharge, and, upon the denial of the application, brought the case here.

Page 208 U. S. 485

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