We have talked a bit about bail reform and how many people agree that it is unfair for a person earning $20,000 a year to pay the same as someone earning $1,000,000 a year. But a recent case in Norway shows the other side of the argument -what happens when bail and court fines are based 100% on someone’s income. Here’s what you should know about the case from the standpoint of a San Diego DUI lawyer.
In Norway, court fees are based on income, unlike in the US. While that tends to make the system more equal for low income residents, it can result in incredibly high court fines for those in the top 1%. In fact, the world’s second-youngest billionaire and the richest woman in Finland recently got a DUI in the country and San Diego drunk driving defense lawyers as well as others around the globe were shocked to hear that she was sentenced to a $30,000 fine (in California, the fine for a first-time DUI is $1,000). What’s even more shocking is that the fine could have been up to $4.9 million if it was based on the woman’s assets.
While the woman was lucky that the court determined that because the woman’s assets have not yet yielded any dividend yet so she should not be subjected to a fine based on them, $30,000 is still an eye-popping amount for a DUI fine. Even if we were talking bail (which has been at the center of many debates in California recently) rather than a court fine, it is important to remember that while most people get their bail money back, not everyone does and that means that some people will risk losing a whole lot more than others.
So what’s the best solution? San Diego DUI attorneys tend to agree that there is no one solution that will work best for everyone. When flat fees are used for bail and court fines, the poor are disproportionately affected. When penalties are based on a percentage of a person’s income, the rich can face astronomical fees. While a tier-based system makes things more balanced and puts a cap on maximum fines, it would also make it where someone could end up paying a much higher fine simply because they earn $100 more annually than the limit for the next lower tier. Another alternative the courts are looking at is to have defendants evaluated at the time of arrest to see if they can be released for low level crimes without any bail on their promise to appear in court. Even if there is no immediately obvious solution, the topic is still something that needs to be addressed because the current system is failing too many citizens.
If you have any questions about court fines or bail, San Diego drunk driving defense attorney Peter M. Liss can help answer them. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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