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Use of Fines by Trial Court Judges

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 71 Issue: 6 Dated: (April-May 1988) Pages: 325-330
Date Published
6 pages
A mail questionnaire, sent to a random national sample of judges examined caseload composition, sentencing practices, enforcement and collection procedures, and attitudes toward the use of fines.

Responses were received from 1,261 full-time judges. On the average, limited jurisdiction (LJ) judges imposed a fine alone or in combination with other sanctions in about 86 percent of cases, while general jurisdiction (GJ) judges imposed a fine in almost 42 percent of cases. Only 36 percent of LJ and 6 percent of GJ judges imposed a fine as the only sanction. Frequency of fine use varied by type of offense and by type of court, with LJ judges being more likely to use fines. For both court levels, probation, court costs, and restitution were most likely to be used in combination with fines. The use of fines as a sole sanction was more likely to occur among first-time offenders convicted of relatively minor offenses. For less serious offenses, mean and median amount of the fine was relatively low at both court levels. For more serious crimes, GJ judges were likely to set higher fines than were LJ judges. Judges were most likely to have criminal history information available to aid in sentencing decisions, were less likely to have economic information available, and perceived economic information as least useful in sentencing. Judges were more likely, however, to impose a fine if the offender was affluent. Finally, there appeared to be little correlation between judges' attitudes toward fines and their actual use of fines. 12 footnotes.

Date Published: January 1, 1988