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).

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law Working Paper No. 2020/02

26 Pages Posted: 5 May 2021 Last revised: 29 Jun 2021

See all articles by Ivó Coca-Vila

Ivó Coca-Vila

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law; Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Department of Law

Date Written: November 26, 2020

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Coca Vila, Ivó, What’s Really Wrong with Fining Crimes? On the Hard Treatment of Criminal Monetary Fines (November 26, 2020). Pre–peer review version of an article forthcoming in Criminal Law and Philosophy (2021)., Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law Working Paper No. 2020/02, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3837506 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3837506

Ivó Coca Vila (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law ( email )

Guenterstalstr. 73
Freiburg, 79100
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://https://csl.mpg.de/en/people/ivo-coca-vila/#research-focus

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Department of Law ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.upf.edu/es/web/dret/entry/-/-/35000/adscripcion/ivo-coca

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