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posted by martyb on Tuesday March 17 2015, @11:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the cheaper-to-pay-someone-else-to-drive dept.

Joe Pinsker writes at The Atlantic that Finnish businessman Reima Kuisla was recently caught going 65 miles per hour in a 50 zone in his home country and ended up paying a fine of $56,000. The fine was so extreme because in Finland, some traffic fines, as well as fines for shoplifting and violating securities-exchange laws, are assessed based on earnings—and Kuisla's declared income was €6.5 million per year. Several years ago another executive was fined the equivalent of $103,000 for going 45 in a 30 zone on his motorcycle.

Finland’s system for calculating fines is relatively simple: It starts with an estimate of the amount of spending money a Finn has for one day, and then divides that by two—the resulting number is considered a reasonable amount of spending money to deprive the offender of. Then, based on the severity of the crime, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier. Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland also have some sliding-scale fines, or “day-fines,” in place.

[More after the break.]

Should such a system be used in the United States? After all, wealthier people have been shown to drive more recklessly than those who make less money. For example Steve Jobs was known to park in handicapped spots and drive around without license plates. But more importantly, day-fines could introduce some fairness to a legal system that many have convincingly shown to be biased against the poor. Last week, the Department of Justice released a comprehensive report on how fines have been doled out in Ferguson, Missouri. "Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs," it concluded.

The first day-fine ever in the U.S. was given in 1988, and about 70 percent of Staten Island’s fines in the following year were day-fines. A similar program was started in Milwaukee, and a few other cities implemented the day-fine idea. Nevertheless, in America, flat-rate fines are the norm and day-fines remain unusual and even exotic.

According to Judith Greene, who founded Justice Strategies, a non-profit research organization, all of these initiatives were effective in making the justice system fairer for poor people. “When considering a proportion of their income, people are at least constantly risk-averse. This means that the worst that would happen is that the deterrent effect of fines would be the same across wealth or income levels,” says Casey Mulligan. "We should start small—say, only speeding tickets—and see what happens."

 
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by urza9814 on Tuesday March 17 2015, @12:27PM

    by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday March 17 2015, @12:27PM (#158835) Journal

    Surely I can't be the only one to see the inherent problem of having this kind of system where the fine isn't calculated according the to possible damages caused to society by the offense.

    That depends on how you look at it. Another way would be to say that the damage done *to the perpetrator* is calculated according to the damages caused to society. But particularly for something like speeding, *that's the only reasonable choice*. It's not restitution, it's a deterrent. When you give someone a speeding ticket, they haven't harmed anyone by speeding. If they had, you'd be writing a different kind of citation. If you want it to have a deterrent effect, it has to have some noticable harm to the "criminal". Right now there are entire classes of people in our country who can freely ignore these kinds of citations.

    On top of that, what happens for really poor offenders who will inevitably be repeatedly fined, can they get away with it?

    Uh, the fines are higher now, so it's even more likely that they can't pay it. So what do we do in that situation right now? Keep in mind that it's *illegal* to imprison someone solely because they can't pay a debt.

    Reckless driving can potentially kill anyone, regardless of the size of your bank account, and as a reckless driver, you pose the same threat to everyone else

    EXACTLY. That's EXACTLY the point of this kind of system. Speeding tickets around here are usually around $200. I can afford that about few months, so when I get a ticket, I slow down for a couple months. Someone with a lower income maybe can't afford that at all, so they'll drive carefully all the time. But Bill Gates has no reason not to put the pedal to the floor and peel out right in front of the police officer five seconds after getting one. Reckless driving can kill anyone, and you shouldn't be immune to the punishment just because you're wealthy.

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  • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:11PM

    by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:11PM (#158848)

    But Bill Gates has no reason not to put the pedal to the floor and peel out right in front of the police officer five seconds after getting one.

    Fines aren't the only recourse that cops have in cases of really reckless driving, as Bill Gates experienced first-hand [wikimedia.org].

    --
    The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by schad on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:17PM

    by schad (2398) on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:17PM (#158850)

    If speeding is so dangerous, then you should go to jail for speeding. That's what we do to people who recklessly endanger the lives of others. If you don't think that jail is an appropriate punishment for speeding, then you're tacitly admitting that speeding does not -- at least not necessarily -- endanger the lives of others. If that's the case, then fines aren't appropriate either. If going 75mph on a stretch of road doesn't endanger anyone, then why the hell would it be illegal at all?

    You're trying to have it both ways, possibly because you like the idea of collecting revenue from rich assholes. Stick to using the tax code for revenue. As far as I'm concerned, if we simply must have fines, money collected that way should be put in a pile and burned. That way nobody has an incentive to interpret the law more or less generously than is appropriate.

    • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:34PM

      by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:34PM (#158859) Journal

      If speeding is so dangerous, then you should go to jail for speeding. That's what we do to people who recklessly endanger the lives of others. If you don't think that jail is an appropriate punishment for speeding, then you're tacitly admitting that speeding does not -- at least not necessarily -- endanger the lives of others. If that's the case, then fines aren't appropriate either. If going 75mph on a stretch of road doesn't endanger anyone, then why the hell would it be illegal at all?

      I agree with you 100%. I DON'T think there should be fines for that. I was just pointing out the flaw in the parent's logic :)

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Nuke on Tuesday March 17 2015, @02:10PM

      by Nuke (3162) on Tuesday March 17 2015, @02:10PM (#158870)

      If speeding is so dangerous, then you should go to jail for speeding.

      Wrong premise. It is all a matter of degree. In the UK some bad speeding cases do end up with jail, milder cases are just fined.

      If going 75mph on a stretch of road doesn't endanger anyone, then why the hell would it be illegal at all?

      And you are nominating yourself (and every Tom Dick and Harry who comes along) as the judge of whether the road is safe for 75 mph, even if they don't know the road? The idea of speed limits is that a traffic expert who knows the locality makes the judgement. I say the "idea" but admit that the expertise is often questionable. Better though than maybe total strangers, unaware of property exits etc, making the judgment.

      Nevertheless, speed limits are not just about danger. Another reason is traffic capacity. At busy times there is are temporary speed limits on the M25 (motorway ring around London) for example, in order to increase its capacity. For another example, every day I am held up for five minutes at a T-junction by the traffic in front hesitating to pull out because cars along the main road are doing more (typically 40-50mph) than the 30mph limit. If those cars were doing 30 as they should, there would be a lower realtive speed between the main road traffic and the traffic emerging into it, so emerging would be easier with less hold up. I must admit I have no qualms about making the buggers slow down by pulling out.

      If there is a speed limit, drivers ought to be able to assume that other drivers are keeping to it; things would then run more smoothly all round.

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by schad on Tuesday March 17 2015, @03:49PM

        by schad (2398) on Tuesday March 17 2015, @03:49PM (#158920)

        Wrong premise. It is all a matter of degree. In the UK some bad speeding cases do end up with jail, milder cases are just fined.

        More formally, this is my argument:

        1. Speeding is dangerous.
        2. Dangerous behavior should result in jail time (subject to a laundry list of exceptions that boil down to "reasonableness").
        3. Similar behavior should be punished and/or deterred similarly.

        Therefore, all speeding should result in jail time (though not necessarily of the same duration).

        This is an argumentum ad absurdum: the conclusion is ridiculous, but follows inescapably from the premises, and so one or more of the premises must be incorrect. The conclusion I want people to reach is that (1) is false: that a great deal of what is currently defined as "speeding" is not, in fact, dangerous at all. This is a point you make yourself:

        Nevertheless, speed limits are not just about danger. Another reason is traffic capacity.

        In which case fines are at least potentially appropriate, though you'd still want to destroy the money to avoid creating incentives. The trouble is that many people -- especially those whose livelihoods depend, in one way or another, on writing speeding tickets; like politicians and police officers -- deliberately conflate "traffic control" with "traffic safety." It's not that traffic control isn't a worthy goal. It's that traffic safety rules must not be violated, whereas traffic control rules should not be violated. If you deliberately blur the distinction between the two, all your incentives and deterrents stop working correctly. The vast majority of speed limits are set for non-safety reasons; things like noise control, traffic flow, and so on. Again, worthy goals. But people learn that those limits can be safely (and I use that word deliberately and literally) ignored. It's a small step from there to assume that all speed limits are the same way.

        So even if I stipulate to the worthiness of all these goals, the current regime of predominantly-fines is ineffective at achieving them.

        And you are nominating yourself (and every Tom Dick and Harry who comes along) as the judge of whether the road is safe for 75 mph, even if they don't know the road?

        No. That's a job for the police. They already do it today in the US, and presumably in the UK and everywhere else too: you can be pulled over, ticketed, and even jailed for reckless driving, no matter how fast or slow you're going. It's a whole lot easier just to zap someone with a radar gun and write them a ticket for going 60 in a 55, though, so that's usually what's done.

        • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Tuesday March 17 2015, @09:16PM

          More formally, this is my argument:

          1. Speeding is dangerous.
          2. Dangerous behavior should result in jail time (subject to a laundry list of exceptions that boil down to "reasonableness").
          3. Similar behavior should be punished and/or deterred similarly.

          Therefore, all speeding should result in jail time (though not necessarily of the same duration).

          This is an argumentum ad absurdum: the conclusion is ridiculous, but follows inescapably from the premises, and so one or more of the premises must be incorrect. The conclusion I want people to reach is that (1) is false: that a great deal of what is currently defined as "speeding" is not, in fact, dangerous at all. This is a point you make yourself:

          Your 'argumentum ad absurdum' isn't a very good one. I posit that (1) is false, as it should read "Speeding can be dangerous" and that (2) is an attempt at a false equvalence. If I stick my hand in a hot oven to retrieve an item without an oven mitt, that's dangerous. Should I go to jail?

          If I go skydiving, should I be jailed? How about unprotected sex with a stranger?

          Premise (3) is actually pretty good. What is lacking there is that it should read "Similar behavior should be punished and/or deterred via means that have a similar effect."

          Without that last bit, you ignore the reasoning behind fines for traffic infractions. Which is to deter that sort of behavior because it increases the risk of damage/injury/death to the perpetrator and others.

          In order to have a deterrent effect, such fines must be inconvenient at the least. Depending upon the resources available to a particular offender, what is inconvenient/unpleasant/an actual deterrent varies significantly.

          That I have to state that explicitly is kind of ridiculous, since that should obvious to any adult who isn't brain damaged or otherwise impaired.

          So. you're obviously brain damaged, drunk/high, trolling, or some combination thereof. If you're trolling, I apologize to the SN community for feeding you.

          Otherwise, I suggest you seek professional help.

          --
          No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
          • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Wednesday March 18 2015, @02:11AM

            by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday March 18 2015, @02:11AM (#159166) Journal

            It is not that it is not a very good reductio ad absurdum, it is that the poster has no idea what a reductio is.

            --
            Die Republikkkanische Partei isst die weissvolken partei.
    • (Score: 1) by kryptonianjorel on Tuesday March 17 2015, @03:12PM

      by kryptonianjorel (4640) on Tuesday March 17 2015, @03:12PM (#158901)

      People shouldn't be allowed to have guns either. We all know that guns kill people, and people having them increases the risk that people will be shot and killed. So if you don't think gun owners should be in jail, you're stupid

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:30PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:30PM (#158856)

    EXACTLY. That's EXACTLY the point of this kind of system.

    Then if it is reckless then you could have some sort of point system. Then they take your car away. OH WAIT... That is what they do already.

    This is nothing more than a money grab. 1 'rich guy' can take care of the department budget of the work of doing 250 speeding tickets. Yeah that will make the roads safer /sarc... The police will make it so the system is applied decently and fairly. Oh its not.

    Also do not think for a second the 'rich' will take it lying down. They will twist the system. They have the money and influence that it bought to make sure they are taken care of.

    The proper way to take care of people who speed is to make it wildly inconvenient for them to take care of. The behavior takes care of itself after that. It is what finally got my wife to stop doing 10-15 over the speed limit everywhere. Not because I couldnt yell at here or the money was too much (it was for her income level). It was spending 4-5 hours taking care of 1 ticket. Once I pointed out that 4-5 hours and basically day off work of time if she was at work would take care of the fine. She realized the ticket was costing her a lot more than 150-200 bucks. It was costing her money, vacation time, and time itself.

    Just require that the person who gets the ticket to stand in line to take care of the ticket. Then make sure the line is understaffed. Oh and they take a 1 hour lunch *always*. By default you have taken speeders off the road for that period. Put up signs saying 'sucks to wait? dont speed'.

  • (Score: 2) by jasassin on Tuesday March 17 2015, @11:02PM

    by jasassin (3566) <jasassin@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 17 2015, @11:02PM (#159105) Journal

    Uh, the fines are higher now, so it's even more likely that they can't pay it. So what do we do in that situation right now? Keep in mind that it's *illegal* to imprison someone solely because they can't pay a debt.

    If you do not pay a fine, you better bet your ass a bench warrant will be issued and you will be incarcerated. If you can't pay the fine, then you'll do the time (each day incarcerated equates to so many dollars paid).

    Either way, if its a fine or a debt I wanted to remind everyone they can do anything they want. They can imprison anyone (yes even US citizens) indefinitely without a trial. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indefinite_detention_without_trial [wikipedia.org]

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