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A fine or mulct is a penalty of money that a court of law or other authority decides has to be paid as punishment for a crime or other offense. The amount of a fine can be determined case by case, but it is often announced in advance.
The most usual use of the term is for financial punishments for the commission of crimes, especially minor crimes, or as the settlement of a claim. A synonym, typically used in civil law actions, is mulct.
One common example of a fine is money paid for violations of traffic laws. Currently in English common law, relatively small fines are used either in place of or alongside community service orders for low-level criminal offences. Larger fines are also given independently or alongside shorter prison sentences when the judge or magistrate considers a considerable amount of retribution is necessary, but there is unlikely to be significant danger to the public. For instance, fraud is often punished by very large fines since fraudsters are typically banned from the position or profession they abused to commit their crimes.
Some fines are small, such as for loitering, for which fines range from about $25 to $100. In some areas of the United States (for example California, New York, Texas, and Washington D.C.), fines for petty crimes, such as criminal mischief (shouting in public places, projecting an object at a police car) range from $2,500 to $5,000.
In the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, unless the context otherwise requires, the expression "fine", except for the purposes of any enactment imposing a limit on the amount of any fine, includes any pecuniary penalty or pecuniary forfeiture or pecuniary compensation payable under a conviction.
In section 32 of that Act, the expression "fine" includes a pecuniary penalty but does not include a pecuniary forfeiture or pecuniary compensation.
In England, there is now a system whereby the court gives the offender a 'fine card' which is somewhat like a credit card; at any shop that has a paying-in machine he pays the value of the fine to the shop, which then uses the fine card to pass that money on to the court's bank account.
A related concept is the fixed penalty notice, a pecuniary penalty for some minor crimes that can be either accepted (instead of prosecution, thus saving time and paperwork, or taken to court for normal proceedings for that crime. While technically not a fine, which, under the Bill of Rights 1689, may be levied only following a conviction, it serves the same purpose of punishment.
Early examples of fines include the weregild or blood money payable under Anglo-Saxon common law for causing a death. The murderer would be expected to pay a sum of money or goods dependent on the social status of the victim.
The Dutch Criminal Code (Dutch: Wetboek van Strafrecht (WvSr)) doesn't contain specific amounts for fines for every violation of the law. Instead of that the Criminal Code provides six fine categories. Every penalty clause of the Criminal Code contains a fine category. The categories are:
|Category||Maximum height of the fine
Wetboek van Strafrecht (European Netherlands)
|Maximum height of the fine|
Wetboek van Strafrecht BES (Caribbean Netherlands)
These sums are only an upper limit, it's up to the judge or the prosecutor to determine the exact sum of the fine. However, the amount of the fine must be at least EUR3. The sums of categories are always 1, 10, 20, 50, 200 and 2000 times the amount of the first category. In addition to the fine, the convict also has to pay an administration fee of EUR9. The amounts are established by the government, via a royal order.
When the judge convicts an individual to a fine, the judge must also set a term of substitute imprisonment. This substitute imprisonment will be executed in the case that the fine remains unpaid. The judge may count one day imprisonment for every unpaid EUR25, however normally judges reckon one day for every EUR50 which stays unpaid. Though, the substitute imprisonment must be at least one day (even though the fine was EUR3) and cannot exceed one year (even though the fine was EUR100,000).
Once a person is irrevocable convicted to a fine, it's up to the public prosecutor to collect the fine. To do so, the cjib (centraal justiteel incassobureau (English: central judicial collection agency)) is established.
First, the CJIB will send the convict the fine. If the convict pays the fine the case is closed (by paying, the convict loses the right to go into appeal as well), if he doesn't, the case will be continued. The CJIB will then send the convict a reminder, though this reminder will contain an increment of EUR15. If this doesn't lead to the payment of the fine, the CJIB will send another reminder, now with a raise of 20%, however, the raise must be at least EUR30. When the fine continues to be unpaid, the CJIB will instruct a bailiff to collect the fine nonetheless. This bailiff may, for example, seize the convict's income and sell his possessions. If these measures do not result in the full collection of the fine, the bailiff will return the case to the prosecutor. The prosecutor will order the police to arrest the convict, in order to execute the earlier written substitute imprisonment. The length of the imprisonment will be percentage-wise reduced if the convict has paid a sum, but not the entire amount of the fine. After the substitute imprisonment the convict will be a free man again. He also won't have to pay the fine anymore and the case will be closed.
Before 1 September 1990, all traffic violations were punished via the criminal law. The suspects were first offered a sort of plea bargain. This mostly contains a fine. If the suspect didn't pay the fine of this plea bargain, the public prosecutor had to open a criminal case, otherwise he wasn't authorized to collect the fine through force. The case had to be withdrawn when the capacity of the courts or the prosecutor's office didn't allow the start of a criminal case for a traffic violation. This was the case very often. This situation led to a negative spiral, because traffic offenders hoped and expected their case to be withdrawn, and didn't pay the plea bargain fine. This led to a growing pressure on the capacity of the courts, which causes more sepots (decisions not to prosecute). This encouraged more offenders not to pay, etc.
In order to stop this spiral, the secretary general of the justice department (at that time), Dr. Albert Mulder, designed a new system of law enforcement. Under this new system, the government acquired the right of summary foreclosure. The summary foreclosure means that the CJIB can execute the fine directly, unless the fined subject goes to appeal.
The system regarding frequently committed traffic violations is regulated by Administrative Enforcement of traffic Rules Act (Dutch: Wet administratiefrechtelijke handhaving verkeersvoorschriften (WAHV)). According to the WAHV the maximum sum of the administrative fine is the same as the maximum amount of the first category (Art. 2 section 3 WvSr Criminal Code). The exact fine per violation is determined by an annex of the WAHV. In addition to the fine, the fined subject will also have to pay EUR9 administration costs as well. The amount of the administration costs will also be determined by the minister.
Once a subject has been fined by an officer or photographed by a speed camera, he will receive a decision within four months. This decision will contain a short description of the violation, the place and time the violation was committed and sum of the fine. The subject will have two choices now. He can pay the fine or he can go into appeal. In contrast to the court imposed fine, when the subject has paid the fine, he will keep the right to go into appeal. The subject can go into appeal within six weeks. In the first instance, the subject appeals to the public prosecutor. The prosecutor shall withdraw the fine completely when he thinks the appellant has right. He will lower the sum of the fine if he thinks that the suspect is partially right. If the prosecutor thinks that the suspect isn't right, he will uphold the fine. As long as the prosecutor has not made a decision on the appeal, the suspect does not have to pay the fine yet.
Once the prosecutor has made a decision, the suspect will again have two choices. He can pay or he goes into appeal at the sub-district judge of his arrondissement (or the arrondissement of the place where the disputed violation was committed). But now, the suspect has to pay the fine as a surety. If the suspect doesn't pay the surety, the judge will declare him inadmissible (thus the fine will be upheld). The judge will have the same choices as the prosecutor. He can withdraw the fine, lower the fine, or uphold the fine.
If the (remaining) fine is higher than EUR70 and the suspect or/nor the prosecutor doesn't agree with the sub-district judge's verdict, the suspect or the prosecutor can go into appeal for the last time. He does that at the court of appeal of Arnhem-Leeuwarden in Leeuwarden. This appeal will be in writing, unless the appellant, per se, wants to do it orally. If the fine is lower than EUR70, or the appellant's appeal is rejected in Leeuwarden, there will be no legal remedies anymore and the case will be closed. The appellant's surety will be transformed to a fine.