Fine (penalty)

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A fine or mulct is money paid usually to superior authority, usually governmental authority, as a punishment for a crime or other offence. The amount of a fine can be determined case by case, but it is often announced in advance.[1]

File:Wheel Clamp warning sign.JPG
A warning sign in Singapore that states the fine for releasing vehicles that are immobilized with wheel clamps by Singapore Police Force officers.

The most usual use of the term, fine, relates to a financial punishment 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 where 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.

Fines can also be used as a form of tax. Money for bail may be applied toward a fine.

A day-fine is a fine that, above a minimum, is based on personal income.

Some fines are small, such as loitering which can run about $25–$100. In some areas of the United States (for example California, New York, Texas, and Washington D.C.), there are petty crimes, such as criminal mischief (shouting in public places, projecting an object at a police car) that run between $2500–$5000.

Fines by country

England and Wales

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.[2]

In section 32 of that Act, the expression "fine" includes a pecuniary penalty but does not include a pecuniary forfeiture or pecuniary compensation.[3]

In sections 15 to 32 and 48 of the Criminal Law Act 1977, the expression "fine" includes any pecuniary penalty.[4]

In England, now there is 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.

See also English criminal law#General power to impose a fine on indictment.


  • Most crimes are punished by imprisonment or fine. The amount of the fine and the length of the imprisonment depend on the crime committed and can be found in the Wetboek van Strafrecht.
  • According to article 23, part 2, the lowest possible fine is € 3.[5]
  • Part 3: The highest possible fine depends on the category number according to the crime committed. A more severe crime is punished by a fine of a higher category.
  • Part 4 determines the maximum height of the fine per category:
    • First category: € 390.
    • Second category: € 3,900.
    • Third category: € 7,800.
    • Fourth category: € 19,500.
    • Fifth category: € 78,000.
    • Sixth (highest) category: € 780,000.
  • Most traffic violations are punished by a fine, given by a police officer instead of a judge. The fine can be paid by bank transaction, after which the case is closed. Not paying the fine on time will cause a trial.[6] The law has the title Wet administratiefrechtelijke handhaving verkeersvoorschriften, also known as Wet Mulder, named after Albert Mulder, a former secretary of the Dutch Justice Ministry.
  • A person without Dutch nationality may have to pay the fine in cash to the police officer. Confiscation of the driver's license for speeding (driving faster than 50 km/h above the speed limit)[7] will be replaced by a very high fine if the committer of the violation does not have Dutch nationality.

See also


  1. Bray, Samuel (2012). "Announcing Remedies". Cornell Law Review. 97.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, section 150(1)
  3. The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, section 32(9)
  4. The Criminal Law Act 1977, section 65(2) (as amended by paragraph 153 of Schedule 7 to the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980). This definition previously applied to section 14 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 before it was repealed by the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980.
  5. " - Wet- en regelgeving - Wetboek van Strafrecht - BWBR0001854".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. " - Wet- en regelgeving - Wet administratiefrechtelijke handhaving verkeersvoorschriften - BWBR0004581".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Wanneer wordt mijn rijbewijs ingevorderd?".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>