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.