Flat rate fine aren’t fair

Justice discriminates against those who commit minor crimes

If a low-income earner decided to drive without wearing a seatbelt, that person would be subject to the same penalty as a high-income earner. And as you know, the penalty is cash.

People shouldn’t be driving without seatbelts, nor should they be breaking most other laws. But when it comes to offences, wealthy lawbreakers should feel the same pinch as their poor counterparts.

But the poor and the rich both have to pay the same amount of money if they get caught, which means the same ticket can  have different results.

If fines are supposed to work as a deterrent, what’s stopping a millionaire from driving without his seatbelt on – the threat of paying an iota of his annual income? A lower-income earner would have their weekend ruined by a $150 ticket.

Poor people know the ropes. It’s usually worth their time to show up to traffic court, knowing the police officer probably won’t be there, and have the ticket ripped up.

That seems to be the pragmatic solution: rich people pay tickets; poor people fight them. From the prosecutor’s point of view, it’s enough of a hassle to make them both think twice next time they drive beltless.

But everyone knows that the poor folk are getting the stinky end of the stick. A minimum-wager who has to jump through legal hoops just to leave enough space on the credit card for disposable income over the weekend has it a lot worse than a fat cat who can solve the same legal issue with a few thoughtless clicks on a banking website.

British Columbia could adopt a penalty system which penalizes offenders by garnishing a portion of their income, rather than painting every lawbreaker with the same brush.