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Fines in Sentencing - A Study of the Fine as a Criminal Sanction

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 1984
341 pages
A preliminary, largely descriptive examination was made of the use of fines by American courts.
To gain a better understanding of the legal and historical context within which fining takes place, all the U.S. State and Federal statutes, relevant State appellate court and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and a wide range of published materials were reviewed. Next, to get a general empirical picture of fining practices, data were collected through a national telephone survey of 126 courts in 21 States; onsite visits to 38 courts of various types in 7 States; and an indepth, case record study of fine use and collection in New York City's 5 limited and 5 general jurisdiction courts. Third, the recent experience of several Western European countries -- England, Germany, Sweden -- which use fines as the sentence of choice in criminal cases was studied. Data suggest that patterns of fine utilization, collection, and enforcement vary widely from court to court even within the same area. Also, fines are viewed and used differently in courts of limited jurisdiction, in courts that deal with both misdemeanors and felonies, and in general jurisdiction courts that handle only felony cases. However, the fine is used very widely as a criminal sanction and is big business in American courts. Tables, figures, and a bibliography of 167 items are included. Appendixes provide background data compiled for the study.

Date Published: November 1, 1984