What’s Really Wrong with Fining Crimes? On the Hard Treatment of Criminal Monetary Fines
Pre–peer review version of an article forthcoming in Criminal Law and Philosophy (2021).
26 Pages Posted: 5 May 2021 Last revised: 29 Jun 2021
Date Written: November 26, 2020
Among the advocates of expressive theories of punishment, there is a strong consensus that monetary fines cannot convey the message of censure that is required to punish serious crimes or crimes against the person (e.g., rape). Money is considered an inappropriate symbol to express condemnation. In this article, I argue that this sentiment is correct, although not for the reasons suggested by advocates of expressivism. The monetary day-fine should not be understood as a simple deprivation of money, but as a punishment that reduces the offender’s capacity to consume for a certain period of time. Conceived in this manner, I argue that it is perfectly suitable to convey censure. However, the practical impossibility of ensuring that the person who pays the fine is the same person who has been convicted of the offense seriously undermines the acceptability of the monetary fine as an instrument of censure. Minimizing the risk of the fine’s hard treatment being transferred to third parties is a necessary condition for the monetary fine to be considered a viable alternative to lengthy prison sentences.
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Keywords: monetary fine, expressive theories, punishment, censure, hard treatment, obstruction of punishment enforcement
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