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ST. GALLEN, Switzerland – A Swiss court has slapped a wealthy speeder with a chalet-sized fine — a full $290,000.
Judges at the cantonal court in St. Gallen, in eastern Switzerland, based the record-breaking fine on the speeder's estimated wealth of over $20 million.
A statement on the court's Web site says the driver — a repeat offender — drove up to 35 miles an hour (57 kilometers an hour) faster than the 50-mile-an-hour (80-kilometer-an-hour) limit.
Court clerk Heidi Baumann-Becker said Thursday the unidentified driver can appeal the decision, handed down in November, to the Swiss supreme court.
The Blick daily newspaper in Zurich reported the fine was more than twice the previous Swiss record of about $107,000.
Initially, when I heard about this, I thought it was actually a pretty good idea. A $200-300 fine just isn't much of a deterrent to people who have a lot of money, this seems like it (should) change that optimal choice arithmetic.
What do you think of this?
I said I "initially" thought this was a good idea because I then changed my mind. I started thinking about traffic fines and fines in general, and then I started considering: in America at least (not sure about the situation in other countries) there is a certain problem of police setting up speed traps as a revenue stream, which seems like a messed-up incentive to me. There's also the issue of scaled-to-income (or net worth) tickets not necessarily hitting people like me, a college student without a job and with a bunch of loans. I wouldn't personally mind getting a $0 ticket, but it's not much of a deterrent. If someone like me does receive a ticket, or someone of even lower capacity to pay, perhaps with a mandatory minimum fine (say of $100-200), it's going to affect that person a lot more than even a $300,000 fine would affect a wealthy person.
There's also the notion that a fine in a certain capacity should equal the expected harm, adjusted for the likelihood of not being caught.
How should fines, let's expand this to traffic and otherwise, work? I've been drifting towards abandoning the idea of fines for lower-income people altogether and going with some other deterrent, but that just throws in additional problems. Is there a theory of optimal fines out there somewhere? Do the Swiss have it?