January 7, 2010

How do you figure a $290,000 fine for speeding?

Do the math!
The man was reportedly caught driving a red Ferrari Testarossa at 137km/h (85mph) through a village.
The penalty was calculated based on the unnamed motorist's wealth - assessed by the court as $22.7m (£14.1m) - and because he was a repeat offender.
And because it was a Ferrari and because it was red.

But seriously, you can't punish very effectively with a fine unless you take the individual into account. This guy shouldn't be able to casually buy his way into having the rules not apply to him, which is what it would be if he paid the speeding fine that would burden lesser folk but is nothing to him.

Now, let's extend this idea. Take a guy who loves solitude and spending time at home reading. Some other guy has lots of companions and loves going out every night and working and playing outdoors. They commit the same felony. Should they get the same prison term?

45 comments:

Scott M said...

We've got those companies here in Missouri that will go to court for you and get a speeding ticket turned into a parking ticket.

I've never been comfortable with that. It implies that rich people can do whatever the hell they want. I understand why they do it, ie, the municipality in question actually gets more $$ out of the deal, but still...

Original Mike said...

The worst sentence you could impose upon me would be to make me a celebrity.

deincertitudine said...

Does the first guy also enjoy being anally raped?

Maguro said...

It all depends on what you mean by "companion".

Larry J said...

A prison sentence is taking someone's freedom for a percentage of their life. Since the average lifespan of the two individuals isn't likely to be very different, the comparison to a fine being a proportion of one's wealth doesn't seem to apply.

k*thy said...

Aside from making the first guy a greeter at Walmart, you'd still be taking away his control of his time by imprisoning him and putting it in someone else's hands.

Pastafarian said...

LarryJ, to an extent, time is money, since most trade their time for money.

Original Mike said...

You could punish the first guy by limiting his reading material to People Magazine.

Ann Althouse said...

"Does the first guy also enjoy being anally raped?"

It's not rape if there is consent. So, assume the prison system does not protect inmates from rape and the first guy actually does look forward to consenting to anal sex with inmates.

Pastafarian said...

Why do we even have laws against speeding? This is something that's bothered me for a long time.

It's already illegal to hit someone with your car. Just fine the hell out of someone who does this -- why try to make a law to prevent it? It's akin to banning handguns in order to prevent armed robberies from occurring.

Consider the fact that this guy's car has an 80 to zero stopping distance that's probably shorter than the 25 to zero stopping distance of the average truck rolling through this village at 25 mph. Shouldn't this be considered?

I don't want to brag, but under normal weather conditions (when we don't have 4 inches of global warming on the road like we do today), I could drive home from work at 120mph, and I'd have a lower chance of causing an accident than the average 85 year old who barely passes the laughably easy eye test, has a reaction time ten times slower than mine, and rolls along at 5mph below the speed limit in their lumbering Buick.

Why should I have to obey the same speed limit as this guy?

Ann Althouse said...

"A prison sentence is taking someone's freedom for a percentage of their life."

But Guy #1 is only using his freedom to do things that he could come pretty close to doing in prison. He isn't losing that much.

Also, let's make Guy #1 an older man who will lose less important years of his life. A 10 year sentence taken from ages 25 to 35 is a lot worse than a 10 year sentence taken from ages 60 to 70.

edutcher said...

This is a Computer Science project in recursion, right?

Pastafarian said...

That was the issue that came up when they sentenced Bernie Madoff -- that he was already so old that a 100 year term would be no different than a 10 year term.

At the time, I really didn't see it that way. The rest of his life still holds just as much value, to him, in his current mind, as it did when he was 30. It's all he has and all he'll ever have. What he's had or done in the past must be little consolation.

Otherwise, these Buicks wouldn't be puttering along at 5 mph below the limit. Their drivers fear death just as much as they ever did, if not more than they did when they were 30.

Opus One Media said...

Ann said "They commit the same felony. Should they get the same prison term?"

The term should be the same if the crime was the same. I think you mis-spoke though, the outdoor guy should stay indoors alone and the loner should live outside with a zillion other guys who take turns talking to him.

Then the scenario you envision plays out.

Scott said...

Wouldn't singling out rich people for greater punishment be a violation of the 14th Amendment?

(wv: supefu. My name is fu. How do you do.)

Roman said...

Do we want justice or "social justice"?

Harsh Pencil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Lynch said...

Yes, they should get the same term.

The law shouldn't know that much about how you spend your time.

Harsh Pencil said...

If rich people weren't able to buy stuff that poorer people couldn't buy, then there would be no incentive to become rich in the first place. In fact, being able to buy stuff that poorer people can't buy is pretty much the definition of being rich.

So if we all agree that rich people should be able to buy mansions and Ferraris if they want to with their money, why shouldn't they be able to purchase the right to speed with their money?

Put another way, a Ferrari costs the same for anyone. A loaf of bread costs the same for anyone A speeding ticket (in the U.S.) costs the same for anyone. Why is that ok for the Ferrari and the loaf of bread, but not the speeding ticket?

k*thy said...

But Guy #1 is only using his freedom to do things that he could come pretty close to doing in prison. He isn't losing that much.

Not so much. Though he prefers solitude (when he has the choice), there are still, no doubt, times when he needs/wants to venture out. It's very much about control. He no longer has control. He may appear to be doing the same thing (physically), but, in his head, he doesn't see it that way.

traditionalguy said...

The equal justice under law protections we believe in mean equal sentencing laws. Why not do what we do and revoke his liscense for reckless driving, and next send him off to jail if he drives without a liscense? I smell money for the local court system. However, that kind of speed is rationally proscribed for a good reason that a blurr going by the stands at a NASCAR Track is not enough warning for the other humans using the public road to see him and run.

Adam said...

Harsh Pencil has it right. The rationale for a speeding fine in the first place is that it imposes costs on others. Rich guys don't impose different costs than other guys do.

Original Mike said...

Also, let's make Guy #1 an older man who will lose less important years of his life.

Auditioning for a job on Obama's death panel, Ann?

John Burgess said...

That 'less important' rubric caught my eye as well, especially as I'm in the demographic.

I consider my current years to be equally important to me and a hell of a lot more fun than when I was worried about promotions, constant moving, constant getting to know and work with new bosses and staffs.

Okay, maybe the pay isn't a great now, but I value every minute of my day.

WV: cackbira... Esperanto idiom for 'brain fart'.

Oligonicella said...

Althouse --

"A 10 year sentence taken from ages 25 to 35 is a lot worse than a 10 year sentence taken from ages 60 to 70."

Properly stated: "I believe a 10 year..."

Sofa King said...

Of course, it depends on whether the crime committed is malum in se or malum prohibitum. Traditionally, isn't this the basis for the distinction between misdemeanors and felonies? Distinguishing between things that are simply prohibited for reasons of expediency or general welfare, as opposed to things that are by common understanding intrinsically evil? Thus, you should (usually) be able to compensate society for a misdemeanor, like a civil plaintiff, but a felony can never really be un-done and demands punishment that has no bearing on ability to compensate.

Original Mike said...

You can also can just as easily turn it around the other way: the older guy has less time left, therefore it's more precious.

Bottom line is I don't think there is any place for people to be judging the value of other people's lives. It really is the most offensive aspect to the recent healthcare plan.

deincertitudine said...

Guy #2 sounds likely to be better equipped than guy #1 to survive the brutality of prison life, as well as the socially and economically crippling aftermath should he survive, so if the goal is to calibrate and apply equal levels of misery to each, that should be taken into account.

Penny said...

Speeders spend less time on the roads because they get to their destinations faster.

This might be seen as a valued public service if states and towns didn't need money from fines to shore up their spending habits.

traditionalguy said...

Talking about the Older guys having less time left, why don't we let them live past 65 provided that they give up all medical care and all Social Security pay outs and promise never to use up any CO2 producing energy or food sources. That's the sincerely caring DemonRats position today. No wonder there are tea party attenders yelling at them to stop pretending that they care while they repeal the baby boomer's paid in, but squandered on Acorn Grants, benefits faster than a secret meeting can take place in the DC dungeon of Harry Reid and his secret liars coven.

Sean E said...

Even if you agree with the disparate treatment based on means, this fine is over 1% of his estimated net worth. A lot of middle-class people, especially as they approach retirement, have accumulated more than $1M in assets. Does the judge think speeding tickets of $10K and up should be closer to the norm?

I think this guy was just punished for having a Ferrari. Maybe British judges are more sympathetic to Aston drivers.

Johanna Lapp said...

For reckless driving, speeding or DUI, first offense should be ten lashes. Second offense should be ten monthly sessions of ten lashes each, a suspended license for five years and forfeiture of the vehicle. Third offense should be 1,000 lashes over a ten year prison sentence and lifetime loss of driving privileges. Same punishment for rich and poor, mandatory sentencing, no wiggle room for influence, bribery or plea bargaining.

Original Mike said...

Maybe there is something to Sharia law. Both rich and poor probably value their hand, head, etc. the same amount.

Ann Althouse said...

"A 10 year sentence taken from ages 25 to 35 is a lot worse than a 10 year sentence taken from ages 60 to 70."

My reason for saying this is that the younger man is at a point in his life when he needs to be doing the things that will affect the trajectory of his whole life. If he doesn't do certain things in his work and his personal life, he will suffer in the later decades. A 60-year-old has already done (or not done) those things and is in the period of his life when he is living with the consequences.

Scott M said...

@Ann

My reason for saying this is that the younger man is at a point in his life when he needs to be doing the things that will affect the trajectory of his whole life.

Respectfully, our resident conservative Diva (said with love, I assure you), this is completely subjective and, in fact, smacks of the one-size-fits-all sort of policy-making we tend to frown upon 'round these parts.

Frankly, I know plenty of 25-35 year-olds who haven't accomplished shit in their lives (Gen Yr's mostly) and I know just as many of my contemporaries (Gen Xr's) that pretty much did a sleepwalk through those years, only to realize in their late 30's it was time to man up and get a life.

Most of this, I believe, is due to the fact that our culture has lowered expectations for 20-year-olds in general. This is, again, my opinion, part and parcel with an entitlement mentality pervasive in the US.

Original Mike said...

@Althouse: Well, that's more palatable, but I can turn it around and say if incarceration is for correction rather than punishment then we need to intervene with the young guy and get him back on the straight and narrow, while for the old guy, what does it matter? Now I don't believe the argument I just constructed, but what I do believe is that it is hubris to think we're smart enough to fine tune these things.

Eric said...

This kind of thing would really make you want to bust your butt to make a lot of money, wouldn't it? I don't think I could bestir myself to get out of bed and go to work in a country like that.

Comrade X said...

A 10 year sentence taken from ages 25 to 35 is a lot worse than a 10 year sentence taken from ages 60 to 70.

While 100% of 25 year olds would agree, 100% of 60 year olds would disagree

Ann Althouse said...

And cream cheese.

Ann Althouse said...

Misplaced comment (of mine) but I'm leaving it because it made me LOL.

vbspurs said...

You mean Swiss cheese, non?

exhelodrvr1 said...

Don't lawsuits take the wealth of the individual being sued into account, and the financial penalties imposed for wrongful death take the potential earning of the victim into consideration, don't they?

traditionalguy said...

exhelodvr1...Civil actions for damages do not consider the defendant's ability to pay nor his insurance carrier. But in a hearing to assess punitive damages awards in the cases that the jury is allowed to decide those, then it is allowed. The attempt to monetise the value of a life in a wrongful death action does consider the Plaintiff's deceased's earning expectations had he lived.

kentuckyliz said...

I saw in the police blotter in the paper, infraction not in the codes.

Scary!

Basically carte blanche for asshole police officers...there's no law against what you're doing, but I don't like it, so I'm going to charge you anyway.

That's effing outrageous.

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