Proportional Fines Based on Income: A Fair Approach to Crime Punishment?

Charlotte Martin

Updated Monday, December 11, 2023 at 10:22 AM CDT

Proportional Fines Based on Income: A Fair Approach to Crime Punishment?

Addressing Income Disparities in the Current Fine System

The current system of fixed fines for crimes like illegal parking, speeding, and littering is seen as unfair because it does not take into account the income disparities between individuals. Proportional fines based on income would make the punishment more equally severe for everyone, discouraging people from committing crimes.

Implementing a system of proportional fines based on income would require individuals to calculate and report their income every time they receive a fine, which could be a complex and time-consuming process. However, concerns are raised about how this system would account for people with no income or those who receive government assistance.

For example, let's consider two line cooks at McDonald's who commit the same parking offense. However, one of them makes more money due to seniority. The question arises whether the person with more income should be fined more. Similarly, if a surgeon and a regular driver are both pulled over for speeding, it would be unfair for the surgeon to be fined significantly more due to their higher income.

Some argue that making fines proportional to income would create a situation where wealthier individuals can afford to commit offenses without significant consequences. However, it is suggested that alternative solutions, such as community service, should be considered for poorer individuals who cannot afford to pay fines.

It is worth mentioning that poor people can already apply to have fines lowered or work out payment plans if the fine would cause undue hardship. This provides some flexibility in the current system. However, a counterargument is made that proportional fines based on income could be appropriate in extreme cases, such as when a wealthy individual deliberately commits offenses knowing that the regular fine is insignificant to them.

Despite the potential benefits, the idea of changing the fee of fines for every single person based on their income is seen as impractical and time-consuming. The potential complexity and administrative burden of calculating monthly income for every individual who receives a fine cannot be ignored.

Moreover, implementing proportional fines based on income would tie up the courts and potentially create more problems than it solves. The feasibility of calculating monthly income and applying it to the standard price of fines is also questioned.

Some argue that individuals should simply avoid committing crimes, especially if they are in a financially vulnerable position. Additionally, if there are unclear or missing signs indicating parking restrictions, individuals should contest the fine in court rather than relying on a change in the fine system.

While the concept of proportional fines based on income may seem like a fair approach to crime punishment, the practicality and potential drawbacks cannot be overlooked. The idea of changing the fine system based on income would be impossible due to the time and effort required to calculate each individual's income. Moreover, it could potentially lead to individuals intentionally committing offenses because they know the fines would not significantly impact their finances.

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