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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: 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'.