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German Experience With the System of Day Fines

NCJ Number
Revue de droit penal et de criminologie Volume: 60 Issue: 4 Dated: (April 1980) Pages: 303-319
G Grebing
Date Published
17 pages
Procedures and problems of the system of day fines adopted in West Germany in 1975 are outlined.
The goals of the system are to reduce the number of short-term jail sentences imposed, to expand the use of fines to a wide variety of crimes, and to adjust the fine to the personal and financial situation of the offender in question. The day-fine system was adopted after research confirmed that on the basis of its use in Scandinavian countries the day fine system is superior to the classical fine system. To establish the amount of the fine, the judge calculates the number of days for which the offender is to be fined according to the seriousness of the offense. Then the judge sets an amount to be paid daily according to the personal and economic situation of the individual. The two numbers are multiplied to obtain the total amount of the fine. The number of days may vary from five to 360 and the daily amount of the fine from 2 to 10,000 German marks. Determining the number of days causes few difficulties in the courts, as the courts can use the number of days in the prison sentence for the same offense as a measure. Most fines do not exceed 90 days. Calculation of the daily amount of the fine is more problematic. The amount must be based on the net income from all sources calculated by monthly rather than yearly income. However, certain individuals such as small businessmen, can manipulate their income to reduce the fine. Furthermore, the usefulness of the fine for individuals in low paying situations, for example nonworking housewives with small children, is questionable and the daily amount extremely difficult to calculate. Estimating the income of students poses similar problems. Special allowances are made for family support money, and easy payment terms are arranged if unexpected expenses interfere with the individual's ability to pay. The amount of the day fine can be increased, if the individual's fortunes improve considerably and a higher rate is needed to achieve the desired punitive effect. The kind and frequency of payments are at the discretion of the judge. The success of the system will depend on the respect that it earns during implementation and on just determination of the fine. One of the remaining problems connected with the system is the need for accurate information on the financial status of the offender, a function theoretically of the judge but carried out practically by the police. Notes are furnished.


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