Williams v. Illinois, 399 U.S. 235 (1970)
U.S. Supreme CourtWilliams v. Illinois, 399 U.S. 235 (1970)
Williams v. Illinois
Argued April 22, 1970
Decided June 29, 1970
399 U.S. 235
Appellant was given the maximum sentence for petty theft under Illinois law of one year' imprisonment and a $500 fine, plus $5 in court costs. The judgment, as permitted by statute, provided that, if, when the one-year sentence expired, he did not pay the monetary obligation, he had to remain in jail to work them off at the rate of $5 a day. While in jail, appellant, alleging indigency, unsuccessfully petitioned the sentencing judge to vacate that portion of the order confining him to jail after the sentence expired, because of nonpayment of the fine and cost. The Illinois Supreme Court rejected appellant's claim that the State statutory provision constituted discriminatory treatment against those unable to pay a fine and court costs, and affirmed the lower court's dismissal of appellant's petition, holding that "there is no denial of equal protection of the law when an indigent defendant is imprisoned to satisfy payment of the fine."
Held: Though a State has considerable latitude in fixing the punishment for state crime, and may impose alternative sanction, it may not, under the Equal Protection Clause, subject a certain class of convicted defendants to a period of Imprisonment beyond the statutory maximum solely by reason of their indigency. Pp. 399 U. S. 239-245.