Imagine the following scenario: a recent college graduate — who works two part-time jobs while trying desperately to pay the bills and keep up on loan payments — gets pulled over for a traffic violation. A judge then issues a fine of let’s say $90.
Our college graduate is already having a difficult enough time making ends meet. Now that he has a fine to pay, he might need about 60 days to somehow come up with the needed funds. Maybe he picks up more hours at work, or perhaps he borrows the needed money. Either way, the fine has imposed a serious financial burden and has served a function — it punishes the offender and discourages future traffic violations.
Now imagine another scenario: an established middle-aged man — who owns a small business and has already paid off his car and house payments — gets pulled over for the same traffic violation. As he did for the college graduate, the judge issues a fine of $90.
Unlike our recent graduate though, the well established middle-aged man need not work more hours or borrow money from a friend; he just writes a check that day, pays his fine and goes on his merry way. The fine does not adequately punish him; it neither imposes a financial burden nor prevents him from committing future traffic violations.
So, is there a problem with our legal system? Does it favor the wealthy over the poor? And, if fines are issued as a form of punishment, do they successfully punish those that can afford to easily pay them?
Realizing that the poor and downtrodden take a more substantial fiscal hit when dealing with the legal system, we propose that our government consider implementing fines for traffic, parking and littering violations that are calculated based on a person’s daily income, rightfully forcing someone who makes more to pay more.
While this may seem like a radical proposition, it’s hardly an original idea. Countries like Finland, Sweden and Germany have already successfully implemented this kind of fining formula. And, this formula is not much different than our current taxation system — in which people are placed into tax brackets based on income. A fine, after all, is similar to a tax.
We realize that this editorial will surely be met with harsh criticism; some readers will invariably claim that The Jambar wants to punish those who have worked hard to make a comfortable life for themselves.
But we firmly believe that the process of committing a crime should not be a product that can be purchased — a product that some can afford and others cannot.
Though our current legal system suggests otherwise, we further believe that people’s worth should never be determined by the money they have in their pocketbook.