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Fines as Criminal Sanctions

NCJ Number
S T Hillsman; B Mahoney; G F Cole; B Auchter
Date Published
8 pages
This report summarizes three key research projects on fines as criminal penalties and the applicability of the day-fine system to American courts.
A survey of 126 different types of courts shows fines are being used extensively, primarily for first offenders with an ability to pay and often in conjunction with other types of sentences, such as restitutions, supervision fees, or payment for alcohol or drug treatment. The statutory limits tend to be low and fines actually imposed by judges tend to be lower than these limits. In both courts of limited and general jurisdiction, judges felt criminal record and offense information was most helpful and that information on assets and income was least helpful in determining the sentence. Judges felt that fines are relatively easy to administer, are cost and fiscally effective, and have rehabilitative effects. However, judges also felt that fines favor affluent offenders, and that poor offenders could not pay fines. Many judges perceived problems in fine collection and enforcement procedures. In Scandinavia and West Germany, day-fine systems are being used even for repeat offenders. The system enables judges to impose monetary punishments commensurate with the seriousness of the offense, the culpability of the offender, and offenders' differing economic circumstances. Recommendations for adapting the day-fine system to American courts are provided. 4 tables.