Fine in the United States

A monetary punishment levied by a court on a person convicted of a crime. A fine is generally used as an exclusive penalty for less serious offenses and ordinance violations, but may often be used, in addition to imprisonment, for more serious crimes. A fine is also often coupled with the sanction of probation.

See Also

restitution, 182; Sentence (Criminal Process).

Analysis and Relevance

The fine is the oldest form of criminal sanction and remains the most frequently used. Fines do punish, but they do so without adding to the number of incarcerated persons, an important by-product in a time of great overcrowding in detention facilities. Fines are the punishment of choice for those who advocate alternatives to imprisonment for convicted offenders. Fines also generate substantial revenue for state and local governments. Most estimates place this amount in excess of $1 billion each year. Refusal to pay a fine may result in imprisonment. The Supreme Court ruled, however, in Williams v. Illinois (399 U.S. 925: 1970) that imprisonment of an indigent person for failure to pay a fine violates standards of due process and equal protection. A variation on the basic concept of the fine is forfeiture. Forfeiture involves the seizure of property and other assets of those engaged in criminal conduct. Typically, forfeiture judgments are sought against those in organized crime activities. Recently, drug traffickers have been the principal target of forfeiture processes. The Comprehensive Forfeiture Act, enacted by Congress in 1984, contains the current federal law on forfeiture. Most states have similar forfeiture statutes. The rationale for the forfeiture of assets is that law breakers ought not to profit from their criminal behavior. A person subjected to forfeiture may also be punished by imprisonment and/or fine upon conviction.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Fine from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California


See Also

  • Legal Topics.
  • chance would be a fine thing, rain before seven, fine before eleven.

    Further Reading (Articles)

    Fines Bill set to cut number imprisoned for not paying, The Irish Times; May 29, 2010; JAMIE SMYTH

    Fines for urinating in Selby streets. Selby Times (Selby, England); February 1, 2012

    Fines, Encyclopaedia Judaica; January 1, 2007; Cohn, Haim Levitats, Isaac Elon, Menachem

    Higher Fines Compel Uninsured Americans to Sign Up; Healthy Less Willing to Sign Up for Insurance Than Unhealthy, Gallup Poll News Service; April 16, 2014; Richter, Charlie Nichols, ord

    EU fines Microsoft $357 million, threatens new fines, Deseret News (Salt Lake City); July 12, 2006; Aoife White AP business writer

    Library waiving fines, lowering late fees, Dayton Daily News (Dayton, OH); July 1, 2007; Dayton Daily News

    ‘Scrap fines for criminals who cannot afford to pay’, The Scotsman; June 6, 2006; Hamish Macdonell Scottish Political Editor

    Double-parking fines could climb; City Council to vote on proposed ordinance, Intelligencer Journal Lancaster, PA; August 22, 2002; Larry Alexander

    Fines, Jail Time and Treatment Are Among the Punishments, The Washington Post; February 12, 2006

    Finer shirtings in demand. (textile industry), Daily News Record; May 10, 1989; Stuart, Frank

    ‘FINE’ IS A WOMAN’S ULTIMATE REVENGE, Post-Tribune (IN); October 20, 1994

    Increase in fines content and adhesion behavior in the pneumatic conveying of CB. Rubber World; August 1, 2001; Keuter, H.

    “Fine Particle Sensor and Mounting Structure Therefor” in Patent Application Approval Process, Politics & Government Week; October 11, 2012

    Collecting Fines; YOUR LETTERS TO THE NATIONAL NEWSPAPER OF WALES, Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales); July 13, 2010

    Fines payback; Refunds for motorists after scales reviewed.(News), The Independent on Saturday (South Africa); January 27, 2007

    Regulation Project on Fines Was Published, Mondaq Business Briefing; April 16, 2014; Erdem, Ercumet

    EU Fines Microsoft $357M, Threatens More, AP Online; July 12, 2006

    FINE ARTS DEPARTMENT PRESENTS TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; January 29, 2007

    ‘Traffic Fines Unfair’ — Judge, Los Angeles Sentinel; April 30, 1997

    Waiving Fines, Library Administrator’s Digest; December 1, 2012; Robinson, Charles W.

    Fine: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

    Federal Primary Materials

    The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Fine. This part provides references, in relation to Fine, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

    Federal primary materials about Fine by content types:

    Laws and Regulations

    US Constitution
    Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

    Federal Case Law and Court Materials

    U.S. Courts of Appeals
    United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

    Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

    Presidential Materials

    Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

    Executive Materials

    Federal Legislative History Materials

    Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Fine and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Fine or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

    State Administrative Materials and Resources

    State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Fine and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Fine. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Fine should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

    State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

    State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Fine when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

    Tools and Forms

    Law in Other Regions

    *This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

    Leave a Comment