Police

Proposal: Don't Let Government Agencies Profit from Fines

Colorado Libertarian Steve Kerbel wants to remove an incentive for police to harass citizens.

|

A proposal in Colorado aims to curb the cops' incentives to mulct money from civilians. If it passes, state government entities won't be allowed to keep the money they make through fines and other legal penalties.

The idea is being pushed by Steve Kerbel, a Libertarian Party activist who sought the group's presidential nomination last year. He hopes to get the initiative on the state ballot in 2018.

Kerbel's law wouldn't prohibit the government from fining people. He's just trying to remove an incentive for police to go out of their way to fine people. For offenses with victims, his proposal would dictate that the money from fines go to victim reimbursement. Otherwise, the fined citizen can direct the money to a "registered and legitimate" charity, as per the language Kerbel earlier suggested at the website Being Libertarian.

As Kerbel told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, "the deterrent remains. The fines are still payable, but the government just can't have them."

As we have seen in Ferguson, Missouri, among other places, the current system often leads governments to harass citizens far beyond any benefit to public order, but merely to the governments' own financial benefit. The consequences for those caught up in government's desire to fundraise via fines can range from losing driver's licenses to jail time.

While the proposal is very far from navigating all the complicated legal requirements to get on the ballot, which include collecting over 98,000 signatures, it would be interesting indeed to see how much value local and state law enforcement will find in enforcing petty laws when they don't make money from the crackdown.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

18 responses to “Proposal: Don't Let Government Agencies Profit from Fines

  1. mulcters suck.

  2. That’s…actually a good idea.

    1. Better idea – Have less laws that police can fine you for.

      1. You might find some attrition if they don’t get to keep the money.

  3. mulct

    Certainly someone’s nickname in college.

  4. For offenses with victims, his proposal would dictate that the money from fines go to victim reimbursement. Otherwise, the fined citizen can direct the money to a “registered and legitimate” charity, as per the language Kerbel earlier suggested at the website Being Libertarian.

    Activists will routinely ask the judge to allow this exact thing. If the judge won’t allow it, they sit in jail rather than pay the fine to cost them money instead of making them money.

  5. How about we try the same thing with punitive damages from lawsuits?

    1. Well, in a world where the English language has meaning, ‘punitive damages’ ARE fines. If it is a punishment, it has to come from a government, and is a fine, not ‘damages’. If it is damages, it has a specific, proven amount, and goes to the one damaged. At least where words have meaning, if there remains such a place.
      Go ask Alice.

  6. I kinda have a problem with the perp getting to pick the charity.
    It should be directed to a charity the perp would not support, or it will not be a deterrent or a punishment. Forcing a screaming liberal to donate to a left wing charity (Clinton fund anyone?) will not make them want to avoid doing whatever it was they got fined for.
    If you really want to provide a deterrent to crime, get rid of fines, and stick with jail time. The sentences can be pretty short, because a week in jail will cost most folks more in job/income loss and deprivation of social media than they will risk.

    1. That costs the government money which of course comes from taxpayers.

    2. Lack of a tax deduction might influence their decision making process.

    3. Yeah so much better to lock people in cages than fine them c.c

  7. Put all victimless crime fines into the states general fund.

    1. No! Money is fungible. Police and prosecutors know whose back to scratch to get department funding, and politicians know it even better.

      1. “Money is fungible.”

        Citation needed.

        /Progressives.


  8. If it passes, state government entities won’t be allowed to keep the money they make through fines and other legal penalties.

    This is actually pretty brilliant, so it’s guaranteed to never pass. Literally every aspect of the government and their cronies have a massive and persistent interest in making something like this go away, permanent like, capic

    1. And that’s no shit.

  9. The cops, handing out the tickets, that lead to fines, don’t give a rat’s ass about how much money goes into the coffers of government. If that is an incentive, it is because they have been told to seek out those offenses – by the very people that would be in place to make this proposed law, happen. IOW, it won’t.
    If it did go through, the orders to focus on these kinds of laws might stop, but taxes would just be raised, because the money is still needed to pay the bills.
    This libertarian lawmaker just shows how ignorant libertarians look to ordinary folk.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.