Bearden v. Jackson

In Bearden v. Jackson, 461 U.S. 660 (1983), the defendant was sentenced to probation and the court imposed a fine and restitution to the victim as a condition of the probation. After making several payments, the defendant lost his job and became indigent. The defendant was unable to make any more payments and a petition was filed to revoke the defendant's probation. A hearing was held and the defendant's probation sentence was revoked. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction. The Court held that reversal was required because the trial court found that the defendant could not fully pay the fine and restitution and revoked the defendant's probation without determining that the defendant "had not made sufficient bona fide efforts to pay or that adequate alternative forms of punishment did not exist." (at p. 662) The Court, applying a due process analysis, held that there must be an inquiry into the reasons why the defendant failed to make payment and if the probationer willfully refused to pay or failed to make sufficient bona fide efforts legally to acquire the resources to pay, the court may revoke probation and sentence the defendant to imprisonment within the authorized range of its sentencing authority. If the probationer could not pay despite sufficient bona fide efforts to acquire the resources to do so, the court must consider alternate measures of punishment other than imprisonment. Only if alternate measures are not adequate to meet the State's interests in punishment and deterrence may the court imprison a probationer who has made sufficient bona fide efforts to pay. To do otherwise would deprive the probationer of his conditional freedom simply because, through no fault of his own, he cannot pay the fine. Such a deprivation would be contrary to the fundamental fairness required by the Fourteenth Amendment. (at p. 672 - 673)