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Wisconsin Will v. State, 267 N.W.2d 357, 359 (Wis. S. Ct. 1978). Other applicable case law
“[T]he Court held that the equal protection clause restricts the state's power to collect a fine from a defendant without the means to pay. We have previously held that: “What
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these cases (Williams, Morris, and Tate ) teach is that one who has been convicted of a crime and fined is not to be imprisoned in satisfaction of the fine or in lieu thereof if he is unable to pay the fine.” State ex rel. Pedersen v. Blessinger, 56 Wis.2d 286, 289, 201 N.W.2d 778, 780 (1972). Under the Williams, Morris, and Tate rationale, no equal protection violation occurs when an indigent offender is originally sentenced to confinement; for when he is originally sentenced to confinement, he is being punished for the crime. But once a sentencing judge has determined a fine to be the appropriate penalty, a defendant who is incarcerated merely because he is without the means to pay the fine is being incarcerated not for the crime but for his poverty, and such incarceration is illegal. On the other hand, when an indigent defender upon whom a fine has been imposed lacks the diligence to meet a reasonable payment schedule, his refusal to pay the fine results from contumacy and not indigence, and incarceration is permissible to punish the refusal to pay.” “But once the sentencing court determines that a fine is an appropriate sanction under the circumstances and that the defendant has the ability to pay it, an indigent offender should be accorded a fair method of paying his fine. Though in Pedersen this court declined to require the trial court to use the installment method when dealing with indigent offenders holding that a future date for total payment in lieu of payment in installments is acceptable, some commentators on sentencing have observed that in almost every case imprisonment can be avoided by allowing the indigent to pay his fine over time. We encourage trial courts to use the installment method, since a simple installment checkoff system at the trial court level would not be difficult to establish.” Id. at 360. “[W]e find no authority, either in the statutes or our cases, for the permanent suspension of a sentence. As long as the defendant is afforded a reasonable payment schedule and as long as he is not imprisoned for his inability to pay the fine, we find no constitutional bar to the state's attempting to collect a fine for an indeterminate period of time.” Id. at 361.