Are income-related fines more just than regular fines?

Elena Kantorowicz-Reznichenko, Professor of Quantitative Empirical Legal Studies at Erasmus School of Law, states in an article by RTL Nieuws that income-related fines will make the fine system fairer. In most European countries fines already depend on the violators income, now the Dutch House of Representatives also discussed the possible introduction of this fining system. Kantorowicz-Reznichenko has researched this phenomenon and written a book about it.

In Finland, the fine is systematically based on a person’s income for 100 years now. If you have a high income, a fine of tens of thousands, or even more, euros for a speeding offence is not unheard of. Finland is not the only country in Europe where this is the case. Half of the EU Members States have already adopted this fining system.

Justice

The fact that wealthy people can buy off the commission of crimes and poor people end up in prison, is inconsistent with the principle of justice. In Dutch law, income-related fines are already possible, but very rarely implemented. When the law was drafted, the intention was to determine fines based on financial capacity. However, up until now income-based fines only occurred in the form of deducting the standard amount of the fine in cases of financial difficulties. “While there is no research investigating whether income-related fines make people less likely to commit violations, it does seem to improve the justness of the fining system as it reduces the chances of people going to prison for not being able to pay a fine” according to Kantorowicz-Reznichenko.

Wealth

When fines are determined based on income, the question arises how income must be defined. Does it only include one’s salary, or is wealth such as real estate also included? As no single clear method has been defined yet, each country has applied something different. It is difficult to determine a person’s actual wealth, since it often concerns citizens who do not have a regular income. In addition, the courts must also gain access to the financial information of citizens.

Substantial extra work

The Public Prosecution Service (OM) does not advocate income-related fines. The criminal justice chain is already overloaded. The OM is wary of the substantial extra work that the introduction of income-related fining system would entail. The council for the Judiciary will investigate the capacity principle. The outcome of this study is expected at the end of 2021.

Professor
More information

Elena Kantorowicz-Reznichenko wrote a book regarding this topic together with Michael Faure, Professor of Comparative Private Law and Economics at Erasmus School of Law. More information about the book (Day Fines in Europe) can be found here.

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