SCOTT v. ILLINOIS
Scott was convicted in a bench trial of shoplifting and fined $50. The statute applicable to his case set the maximum penalty at a $500 fine and/or one year in jail.
Did the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments require Illinois to provide Scott with trial counsel?
Legal provision: Right to Counsel
A plurality held that Illinois had not violated the Constitution. Writing for four of the justices, Rehnquist clarified the Court's holding in Argersinger v. Hamlin (1972) and argued that states could only sentence a convicted criminal to imprisonment if that person had been represented by counsel. Since Scott was not sentenced to imprisonment, even though the applicable statute allowed for it, the state was not obligated to provide counsel. Rehnquist called that line of reasoning "the central premise of Argersinger."