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Fine Default: Enforcing Fine Payment

NCJ Number
R Jochelson
Date Published
56 pages
This research examines the extent of delays in the fine- default enforcement process in New South Wales (Australia) and, where possible, to identify their causes and potential remedies.
An analysis of the key enforcement stages for fine defaults identifies them as stage 1, issue of enforcement order and issue of penalty notice; stage 2, issue of final warrant of commitment; stage 3, notification of warrant of commitment; and stage 4, execution of warrant of commitment. A survey of warrants for fine defaulters in custody examines the delays between the key enforcement stages. The survey sample consisted of 578 warrants of commitment belonging to 171 prisoners incarcerated for fine default between September 1993 and March 1994. Of these inmates, 150 were male, and 21 were female. The current sample of defaulters was used to gauge how protracted the enforcement process is for persons who are imprisoned for fine default. The survey entailed transcribing data from the warrants onto a coding sheet. The survey of warrants was conducted in November 1994. The survey findings address the general characteristics of the sample of imprisoned fine defaulters and provide information on the delays associated with the enforcement of fines for these offenders. The findings show that for the sample of incarcerated fine defaulters, the delays between key stages were lengthy. The average delays between stages 1 and 2, stages 2 and 3, and stages 3 and 4 were 13 months, 9.5 months, and 6.8 months respectively. The long delays between enforcement stages contribute to an increase in the fine defaulter population. Reducing the total population of fine defaulters requires an effective enforcement system that operates with expediency and certainty. Imprisonment should be the appropriate last-resort sanction in the fine enforcement system. It would be used rarely if the fine enforcement system operated with certainty and efficiency, informing defaulters of their obligations and of the consequences that flow from the failure to meet those obligations. 20 figures, 51 notes, and 17 references