Should Speeding Tickets Cost More for the Wealthy?

I recently ran across an interesting article about a Swiss Court fining a speeder $290, 000. Apparently the court decided to base the fine on the offender’s $20M net worth. Apparently he/she is a repeat offender and was traveling at a little more then 1.7x the posted speed limit (137 km/hour in an 80 km/hour zone).

This an interesting problem…

On the one hand, it doesn’t seem fair to hit someone with a higher fine just because they have more money in the bank. On the other hand, while a “typical” speeding fine might really strain a poor person’s budget, it wouldn’t even register for a wealthy person. Thus, as long as you have enough money, you can essentially ignore things like speed limits, at least from a financial perspective.

Of course, there are other types of punishment available, such as suspending a driver’s license. But this still begs the question… Is it fair to index punitive measures such as speeding fines to an offender’s ability to pay? Is it fair not to do this? What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

52 Responses to “Should Speeding Tickets Cost More for the Wealthy?”

  1. Anonymous

    many people are mentioning income or that they should be docked x amount of days pay. Say for example a 40 year old man makes 150 grand a year, so you want to charge him a percentage of his income. but what if he has to support his parents his siblings and children. then at the end of the day he has 1 grand desposable income left (after taxes) what happens then, becuae you are charging him on income which is 150,00 not 1,000 which is all he has left. how do you say your going to takkle that

  2. Anonymous

    Most of the people who have come out against a percent based tax seem to think that somehow how hard you work is indicative of how much money you might earn. These people do not live in the real world, where the hardest workers are actually the lowest paid. I went to a top notch university, and I can tell you unequivocally that the people I know who earn $350,000/yr are not 10x harder working or smarter than those earning $35,000/yr.

    It would be nice to imagine that earnings track linearly with hard work or intelligence, but the simple fact is that they don’t.

  3. Anonymous

    Absolutely not! The fine should be standard, and the deterent should be not only the monetary threat (meager for a super rich fellow) but the threat of a licence suspension for repeat violations (important even to a super rich fellow).

    You can’t charge people more money for the same offense, way too socialistic and punishing more those that are successful in life arbitrarily more than those who are less succesful for the SAME crime!

  4. Anonymous

    The first thing that came to my mind was how that Swiss jurisdiction made quite a bit of money that day. If they have any kind of quota they have to fill for the month, in a dollar sense, they just filled it by fining that one guy!

    But I know that misses the point of the article. Based on the fact that the ticket is supposed to be a punishment, then no, the regular fine probably didn’t seem that bad to this guy, although, I would be in favor of charging him the usual fine, because he would be more likely to speed again and again, which would only result in a suspended license or some other type of detriment.

    I do like the creative sentencing that the judge came up with though.

  5. Anonymous

    #25 said:) “…If you can’t afford the fine, don’t break the law….”

    The actual saying is:

    Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the TIME.

    Society allowing you to pay a fine to stay out of jail, should be based on each individual persons worth for _their_ time to determine the appropriate amount for the fine. A fine that is the equivalent of 3 seconds for Bill Gates, is not fair for someone that would take 3 days of pay.

    #35 said:) “…Insanity any way you look at it – the punishment should fit the crime, not the criminal…”

    No, not in the US. Have you heard of the “3-strikes your out” law? A third offense could get you 20 years in prison for stealing a pack of chewing gum. Also, judges have huge leeway in prison sentencing for similar crimes specifically because of the context of how/when the crime is committed. For example, a woman killing an abusive husband is normally sentenced to far less time (if any at all), than if the roles were reversed.

    The judicial branch of our government is the only branch with any common sense left, except when it comes to traffic courts…

  6. Anonymous

    #43) so you are saying if I work hard and become a doctor/lawyer whatever, then I can practically speed and break whatever laws I want because my ‘fines’ would be less than what I bill for 15 minutes? The rich truly are above the law. Anyhow, the ‘day-fine’ concept is based on the spending money a person has left over after bills, etc (at least according to that wiki article).

    The ‘hard-working’ lumber jack / mill worker is docked two or more days pay for the same infraction that the doctor pays off with less than 15 minutes of work.

    How about we do away with fines altogether and just sentence everyone to the exact same number of hours of community service. The punishment should be based on ‘time’, not a flat dollar amount for it to be ‘fair’ across all economic levels. Do you agree that ‘time’ is the only equalizer? If you do, then it is easy to see that fines based on ‘days pay’ make sense. If you don’t think that ‘time’ is the equalizer, then see my post #24.

    #44) good point, hadn’t thought of it that way. I’m sure that could be argued in court. The day-fine should be based on 8-hours of work. Just because someone works 16-hours a day (very hard worker indeed), they shouldn’t be punished twice as bad.

  7. Anonymous

    I have to take issue with all the people saying speeding isn’t inherently harmful.

    Speeding makes the streets less safe for pedestrians. In my neighborhood we have a highway that becomes a city street, and is a major commuting road. It is dangerous to cross for several hours of every day, and because of that the city and private schools have decided it’s not safe for kids to walk to school. So the lawless drivers – not just speeders but those who run red lights and make otherwise-legal turns when there are pedestrians in the crosswalk – raise busing costs for everyone in the city and lower livability for all of us.

  8. Anonymous

    Lets say two people have the same exact education and job, yet one person works twice as many hours and therefore has twice as high of an income. Should that person have to pay more for a ticket because he worked harder? This is what I mean by being punished for working harder.

  9. Anonymous

    #30 – You missed the point. Doctors spend huge sums of money on education in order to earn a top salary. In addition, they pay huge insurance premiums to protect themselves from malpractice. Why should someone that worked so hard and spend some much time and money on education pay more for a speeding ticket? We are rewarding members of our society for not advancing their skills, education, and careers. If I have no income, maybe I should just be let off the hook and not get the ticket?

    You have to consider what it cost people to earn the salary that they make. most top income producing families were not just handed high paying jobs. They invested huge sums of time and money in order to increase their education and advance their career.

  10. Anonymous

    So what about all the people who have lots of debt and a negative net worth? Do they get paid to speed or at the very least – $0 (or very low cost) tickets?

    Truth be told, speeding in and of itself is not really a harmful activity – It harms nobody.

    The harm is done when an accident occurs – and we already have laws on the books to protect people in the event that property damage occurs and/or bodily injury occurs.

    In fact, when an accident occurs, speeding is USUALLY not the primary cause. Instead, inexperience, bad weather and road conditions, inattentive driving, etc are.

  11. Anonymous

    #39) please — if you are going to state that trash service is somehow indexed to a house’s appraisal value, then you need to give an example (like to a government site).

    As for property taxes, they are linked to the houses appraisal value, as they should be.

  12. Anonymous

    #29 said: “….Isn’t it enough that the top 5% of wage earners pay over 50% of the tax burden…..”

    Maybe not — if the top 5% of wage earners are earning 60% of the wages (and only paying 50% of the taxes), then they are _not_ paying enough. The extra 10% of the tax burden would be falling unfairly onto the lower 95% of the population.

    Would it fair for the group who earns 60% of the wages to only pay 50% of the taxes? — conversely, being fair for the group who earns 40% of the wages to also pay 50% of the taxes? I think not.

  13. Anonymous

    The rich already get soaked without breaking the law. Consider property taxes: Does it cost more to provide trash service to a $1MM residence than a $50K residence? No. Only government can do this and get away with it. Imagine McDonald’s charging you for french fries based on your income.

    Perhaps the unemployed should serve be incarcerated for longer terms because they have the time to spare. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

  14. Anonymous

    Actually, there shouldn’t be speeding tickets at all. Now, if you cause, or are part of, an accident with damage to property or injury, then your speed (and the amount by which it exceeded the speed limit) should be taken into account.

  15. Anonymous

    Someone mentioned it above, but police officers and municipalities are not stupid–they will start pulling over BMWs, Mercedes, Mazerratis, etc. to give any possible ticket in the hopes of striking it big. And trust me, I have had many police friends–95% of the time, they can find something to ticket ANY car for.

    People will inevitably start see dollar signs in their eyes, whether by choice or by pressure, not public safety. Okay, fine maybe they’ll pull over a 15-year-old beater if they’re REALLY speeding. But how often?

    Doesn’t anyone else see a BIG problem with that?

  16. Anonymous

    Saying someone should pay more for a speeding ticket because they’re wealthy means that someone who is young should get a longer jail sentence for the same crime an older person commits

    Insanity any way you look at it – the punishment should fit the crime, not the criminal

    However for repeat offenders of that nature the penalty should be MUCH more important – like loss of license

  17. Anonymous

    i think i’d be ok with percentage of income. as long as it’s the same percentage for everyone.

    but as others said… why should the police know your income?

  18. Anonymous


    If the possibility of paying a six-figure ticket is enough reason for you to stop striving to be the best, then you really need to do something about that.

    The day rule seems to strike the best balance between the two, punitive without being egregiously so.

  19. Anonymous

    Wow…I am really surprised that so many feel this is acceptable. For most drivers a $200 dollar ticket isn’t going to break the bank. It’s the fact that you will lose your license for multiple offenses that keeps people from repeat offending. Isn’t it enough that the top 5% of wage earners pay over 50% of the tax burden. What’s the point of striving to be the best if you are punished for it. I completely disagree with the Swiss court on this issue. I think it is an abuse of power, and quick way to generate revenue.

  20. Anonymous

    Nickel,I’m a very black and white person for the most part living in a very grey world…With this in mind the old saying if you can’t do the time or in such case pay for the crime then for the love of God DON’T BE AN IDIOT….Lol….People get what they deserve especially if they know what there doing is wrong!!! I think it’s a great idea. I do how ever believe the amount though hysterically rediculous is a bit steep… I believe if they imposed that law to yellow cab drivers in N.Y. you’d see how fast and how all of a sudden there entire attitudes would change along with the car insurance rates….

  21. Anonymous

    This instance is very hard for me to have an opinion on. I unfortunately have recently gotten a traffic ticket for something I didn’t even know was illegal. The fine, $200 and I was lucky enough I could pay it. I try not to speed just for safety but on certain roads, you have to speed to be safe because everyone else is driving over the speed limit. I do wonder how they knew the offenders financial status.

    As I type this comment, I have decided this: breaking the law is breaking the law. If you can’t afford the fine, don’t break the law. Just because someone has more money doesn’t mean they need to pay more than someone else. It reeks of government corruption and pocket lining.

  22. Anonymous

    #22) But isn’t the fair punishment XX number of days pay? If it is fair for a poor person and a rich person to serve the exact same number of days in jail for the same crime, then why shouldn’t the financial impact of the fines be the same across economic classes as well?

    If the joker in the article with $20million networth only had to pay a $250 ticket (instead of $290,000) do you think there is any deterring for the crime with that fee?

    A $250 ticket to him is equivalent to a $1.25 ticket to someone with a networth of $100k — think about it.

    Fair punishment is a punishment that impacts all guilty parties the exact same way, regardless of economic status. And the best ways to do that is making the fine a percentage of income (or networth), or serve an equal number of days in jail.

  23. Anonymous

    This reminded me of the situation between Malaysian and Singaporean motorist visiting M’sia several years ago.
    As S’poreans are generally wealthier than M’sian, many rich individual regularly cross the border to race their expensive cars along the M’sian highways. They endanger other motorist and are fined regularly. But due to the immigration system, those S’porean never paid their fines and still regularly re-offend.
    This has only recently stopped after the police started arresting and impounding vehicles of these offenders at the border. The fines were also sold to debt collectors in S’pore who were only too happy to help (remember, these offenders are wealthy and acting above the law). There are far fewer illegal races now on Malaysian highway.
    Crime and punishment goes hand in hand. If the punishment does not deter criminal then there will be no justice. I’m sure there are several wealthy traffic offenders in Malaysia right now who would agree, and wish they paid the fines.
    Btw, the highest speeding fine I’ve heard of in Malaysia is below USD100.

  24. Anonymous

    Wow, is this a slippery slope. I understand the concept, but it would be impractical if not impossible (are we going to ask people for net worth/income statements every time they get pulled over now?).

  25. Anonymous

    Check this out, this is already practiced in some countries: “day-fines”

    “A day-fine or day fine or unit fine is a unit of fine payment that, above a minimum fine, is based on the offender’s daily personal income. A crime is punished with incarceration for a determined number of days, or with fines. As incarceration is a financial punishment, in the effect of preventing work, a day-fine represents one day incarcerated and without salary. It is argued to be just, because if both the high-, and low-income population are punished with the same jail time, they should also be punished with a proportionally similar income loss. An analogy may be drawn with income tax, which is also proportional to the income, even progressively.

    Jurisdictions employing the day-fine include Finland (Finnish: päiväsakko), Sweden (Swedish: dagsbot), Denmark, Germany, Mexico, and Macao.”

  26. Anonymous

    #17 Dean) No, just punishments. The only reason we pay fines today is to keep us out of jails. How much money is it worth you to stay out of jail for 3 days? How much money is it worth Bill Gates to stay out of jail 3 days?

    I betcha it’s not the same amount…

  27. Anonymous

    #15) I think salary actually would be best, as in “I fine you 3 days pay”.

    Easier to calculate, and really stresses the ‘time’ part of the punishment.

  28. Anonymous

    I think the idea of judges being able to modify fines in extreme circumstances would be a great way to deter repeat offenders or people who present a great danger behind the wheel. mandatory hearings, jail and higher fines should be common practice for all egregous offenders, regardless of thier income bracket.

    What shouldn’t be allowed is for the discretion of the fine to be at the patrolman level. First, it could easily be a target for fraud (“I can give you this $10k speeding ticket, or you can write me a check for $2k”). Second, does this mean I now have to carry a copy of my tax return in my car? Third, if my income is below a certain level, does this mean I face little to no repercussions for speeding?

    It’s a poor idea to set fines at income levels, the government cannot act in an arbitrary and capricious manner. A system where you must face a judge for extreme cases is the best way.

  29. Anonymous

    #11) “…should a jail sentence be then indexed to a persons wealth?”

    No, because we all have about the same amount of time in our lives. You can’t increase it, no matter how rich you may be.

    But money is different. For example, it is not worth Bill Gate’s ‘time’ to even bend over to pick up a $100 bill. He makes vastly more than that in the time it would take for him to bend over. Whereas, a poor person might not make $100 in an entire day.

    A flat-rate fine of $250 is not even 3 seconds for Bill Gates, but could be 2 1/2 days for a poorer sap.

    That is why indexing fines to wealth is the only fair punishment — or putting them into jail for the exact same number of hours/days…

  30. Anonymous

    I think the idea of higher fines for the rich is just ridiculous. There should be one fine for a given offense, with higher fines allowed for subsequent offenses. I for one am not comfortable with a criminal court assessing my income or worth as part of the effort to figure out what I should be fined.

    At least here in the states it is normally written into the traffic laws that a violation is punishable by a fine and/or jail. If the issue is rich people ignoring speed limits multiple times because the financial penalty doesn’t hurt them, use the jail time instead. Some spolied rich kid may not care about a $200 traffic fine, but he’ll certainly get upset about being thrown in the pokey for a few days. See Paris Hilton for an example of this in action.

  31. Anonymous

    Along the same lines, should a jail sentence be then indexed to a persons wealth? The wealthier person stands to lose money by not working, why not tie that to their income as well.

    I happen to not agree that fines should be indexed to wealth. Why should I be punished because I manage my money effectively. A high salary individual with a low net worth would pay a smaller fine than a person who has a low salary but has saved. I think not.

  32. Anonymous

    Personally, I’d be for jail sentences in lieu of fines when you get serial offenders who are clearly not changing their behavior for fines. That’s what worked on the DUI front.

    But the higher fine is more of a win-win.

  33. Anonymous

    Honestly, when I first read this I thought it a little crazy. But then the more I thought about the made sense.

    Speeding tickets are a form of punishment(obviously) but because we all have different ways of making a living there is a very wide margin of incomes. So then that $250 fine becomes an obstacle that makes the poor guy lose sleep over compared to the wealthy person who can pay for it without breaking a sweat. It’s no longer a punishment for them..

    But is it worth the hassle? The process of gathering the incomes and net worth of all drivers and calculating how much their speeding ticket should be?
    Maybe and I like the idea but I don’t think it is.

  34. Anonymous

    Yes, fines/penalties should be indexed to the offender’s networth. I think taxes should be too. Any other way is just not ‘fair’.

    In the case of this speeder (who payed the $290k fine), that equates to 1.45% of his networth — which I think is pretty harsh — but I bet no-one (rich or poor) would speed if it cost them 1.45% of their networth if caught.

  35. jimmy37: Conversely, if you can afford the fine, then should you just go ahead and speed? The point of speed limits is safety. If people choose not to follow the law because the fines are miniscule relative to their ability to pay, then they’re choosing to endanger everyone else on the road at no cost to themselves (other than the increased risk of injury). This is true even if everyone else chooses to obey the law and drive in a safe manner. Are you on board with that?

  36. Anonymous

    Basing a fine on wealth or income is socialist garbage.

    The effect of speeding is the same regardless whether someone is wealthy or not. Speeding fines should only be based on speed and frequency of law breaking, nothing else. If poor people can’t afford the fine, don’t speed, don’t break the law.

  37. Anonymous

    Remember that when you get a ticket, it takes more than a minute to get pulled over. Sometimes you could be sitting there for twenty minutes waiting for the officer to write you up.

    So if your worried about time, going the speed limit would get you there faster than getting a ticket. That is assuming you are caught of course.

    It does seem fair at first glance to charge wealthy people more money, but to weed out the ones who are taking advantage of being wealthy, there should be stiffer penalties for repeat offenders instead of just high initial fines.

  38. Anonymous

    If you were Paris Hilton’s parents would you make her put 25¢ into the swear jar or $1000?

    I do think rich people should pay more for speeding tickets. Not cause its ‘fair’ or to get more of their money but because the speeding ticket is supposed to keep them from speeding. Paying a $200 fine is hardly a disincentive for a very wealthy person. If I’m poor then I won’t speed cause I don’t want to lose the money. That $200 matters to a low income person. So the fine itself acts as a disincentive to keep low income people from speeding. But if you’re mega rich then you really don’t care about that $200. I’m sure Paris Hilton or someone like that is a conscious scoff law for motor vehicle laws simply because the punishment of speeding fines is meaningless to them. A smart businesswoman who makes a ton of money might do the math and decide that speeding 20MPH over the limit makes good financial sense to her because her time is worth more than the speeding fines.

    So for speeding tickets to be effective with the rich they need to be paying more. Otherwise the small fine is meaningless and the punishment is impotent.

  39. Anonymous

    Thats crazy. How would they even know your net worth. It not like they could go prying into your bank accounts or maybe they can in switzerland. And if it was based on income, what if that person just spent it all and didn’t save. So they make a ton of money but spend it all, why should they be penalized more. Seems pretty ridiculous. If money won’t stop them then suspend license.

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