Fines and Jail Time (NCGP)

By: Robert Wooldridge

Should non-violent crimes be punishable by fines or jail time? Here are a few examples of why it should be punished by fines, and why it should be punished by jail time. Included in this project are permission forms, interviews, a PowerPoint, and personal opinions.

Interview – Officer Pierce

1. If you pull somebody over and they have drugs, do you think they should go to jail or be fined?

Drugs - they would go to jail. It’s up to the officer’s discretion depending on how much drugs were present.

2. What is your difference in giving someone a fine and taking someone to jail?

For fining – give a citation for most cases; it depends on if the criminal is cooperative or not whether they are going to jail.

For Jail time – Officers are be able to arrest criminals for offences such as fighting but it does depend on the nature of the crime to determine whether or not that criminal goes to jail.

3. Does drug smuggling and theft lead to jail or fines?

Even if it doesn’t hurt anyone, some non-violent crimes and theft do lead to jail time.

4. Should violent criminals automatically go to jail, or do you think it depends on the crime?

He believes that it does depend on the nature of the crime. If it is a misdemeanor, it depends on the misdemeanor type (such as drugs). If you possess more drugs than what is legally defined as a misdemeanor, then it becomes a felony.

5. What is the line between jail time and fines?

Check the person’s background and their history of doing crimes (rap sheet). If they haven’t learned their lesson from past experiences, they would go to jail.

6. Do you think that some juries are unfair on people because of their background? Why? Do people change?

People do change, but the jury is swayed because the jury is seeing the criminal’s background. As far as speeding, you would just go before a judge. They do hold your past against you. Repeat offenders do get it worse. If you have a pattern of things that people do, he believes that it is fair for the criminal to be treated worse. You wouldn’t be in that situation if that person did change.

7. As a police officer, does it bother you that our jails are getting filled up with criminals who aren’t violent and then us not having enough room to put the violent criminals? Why or Why not?

Yes it does, there is a lot of good people that are being locked up, they come out being a trained criminal. Once they get locked up, this is what their life is going to be like so they don’t care what happens anymore.

8. If someone does get fined, how much do you think they should get fined?

Most fines are automatically set by the state. It is around $190 for the cost of court plus whatever the amount of the fine. Police officers don’t have control over the fine.

9. Does the nature of the crime depend on the amount of jail time or fine amount?

It does, but personally, some things are mixed up. Some people get more time for drugs then murdering people, that is unfair. If you are speeding, it depends on how fast you are going. If you are going 70 in a 35 that is automatic grounds to take your license on spot and arrest you if need be. Sometimes officers can just write a citation. Again, it is officers’ discretion.

10. If the criminal has an assistant, should the assistant get less of a punishment then the actual criminal? For instant, aiding and abetting?

Yeah they should get less time but they knew what was going on. They are just as guilty as the criminal if they are actually working together. If it is just a getaway ride, then it should be less time. If you are eluding a police officer it then steps up to a felony. Even if the driver didn’t pull the trigger, the criminal did pull the trigger, the driver will still get the same charge. It will most likely get dismissed in court but he will still most likely get the same charge.

11. If you were a judge, would you bring this problem up to make separate jails for violent crimes and nonviolent crimes?

Some jails are actually like that; violent jails are separate for them. Most of the general population that commits nonviolent crimes is trying to stay away from the violent criminals. The problem is, separating jails costs more money though, which the state doesn’t have.

12. Do you think that your view on things agrees with other people? Why or why not?

Yes, because he has heard of other people talk about the same thing. Some of his coworkers are some of them that he discussed them with. If they were not one of the people who actually do get in trouble, they would agree with them. If they were constantly getting in trouble, always saying that they are getting harassed, they would say that they should get a citation or jail time.

13. All criminals want a fine instead of jail time, how do you go about dealing with them when they try to sweet talk you?

He explains them the consequences and if they don’t do what he said, you can get charged further. Sometimes people do ask for the cut or just a citation. No matter what, you still have to get the trail though.

14. For repeat offenders, do you think that criminals should continue to be fined, or should they have jail time? Even if it is nonviolent?

If you are constantly doing this over and over whether its violent or nonviolent it will get to the point to where you get a higher charge. This is something that the state placed in law. It shouldn’t be more then just one warning, but sometimes it is two warning but then he has to do what he has to do and make sure they get placed in jail for what they have done.

15. If you were in control of the laws, how would you change them to your satisfaction regarding how much people get fined, and the line between jail time and being fined?

Some of the nonviolent crimes which he has seen people locked up for a long time, for nonviolent, which is unfair. Then people do that over and over again, people aren’t learning their lesson because they feel that they are getting just a slap on their wrist. People need to know that this is going to happen if you do this. For being fined, the worse the crime the higher amount, there is no actual set amount. It depends on the amount that it should be. It isn’t about a dollar amount, and in his line of work, he has seen some bad things, certain crimes that start out and then it escalates. For misdemeanors, selling drugs and other things, it does depend on how much drugs it is before it gets stepped up to a felony. There are other possible misdemeanors that you can just say citation. Say someone just has one blunt; it’s just a citation. Versus someone having five bags of marijuana on him or her. They are probably going to sell it and it will possibly go to a felony. It is generally up to the officer of whether he wants to take it to a felony or just to keep it as a misdemeanor. He personally thinks that you should just get it processed and upgrade it to a felony depending on how much it is.

17. For something like speeding, to you say that it depends on how fast people are going and where it is located? Or should it not matter how much the jail time could be?

If it is in a residential area, you are also going to get careless and reckless. If it is just the interstate, its probably going to be just a citation. If they are going that speed in a reckless manner, they would deal with that in a different way. If it is speeding in a neighborhood, it’s a citation. It steps up to a felony if you are endangering people’s lives and you are eluding them, it goes up to a felony.

Interview with Sgt. Edgerton

1. If you pull somebody over, and they have drugs, do you think the criminal should go to jail or be fined?

It depends on the amount and what the drug is. The criminal can be charged with a citation depending on the amount. Law states that police officers must take them to jail if the possession is over limits set by the state law.

2. What is your difference in fining someone and making someone go to jail?

It depends on the charge and you can run their names in the computer. The police officers look at your past history. If it were a repeat offender, then they would take them to jail.

3. Does drug smuggling and theft lead to jail or fines?

Yes it would, because typically drug smuggling causes the reason for the criminal to commit the crime. Sometimes the case is different, but the majority of the drug users and theft, are used hand in hand. It is officer discretion, depending on what they are stealing. It depends on where they are from and they could be recaptured. They run their names on the computer and could take them to court.

4. Should it be just violent criminals that go to jail, or do you think it depends on the crime?

It depends on if they are the victims of that crime. If they have been victimized over and over, then they feel that it should go to jail and spend some time in jail. When you look at society as a whole, then we should save our jails for the more violent offenders.

5. What is the line between jail time and fines?

Looking at the past history, the charges, who could have been harmed, the victims. The majority of the time it is officer discretion, but sometimes it could be required. The judge makes the ultimate decision though.

6. Do you think that some juries are unfair on people because of their background? Why? Do people change?

That is taken into consideration. What might be shocking to the jury might not be shocking to someone like him. Someone with ten prior larcenies could not be as shocking. Yes it would have some effect on the decision.

7. As a police officer, does it bother you that our jails are getting filled up with criminals who aren’t violent and then us not having enough room to put the violent criminals? Why or Why not?

Yes, it does bother him, but in his position the space keeps getting created. It is more frustrating there are a lot of non-violent crimes. There are more and more incidents of violent crimes from juveniles’ everyday. Then they are back on the street with more crime to commit later on in life.

8. If someone does get fined, how much do you think they should get fined?

The fines are a little high here from how he sees it. The costs of courts used to be 50$ now its $180 and the costs are just keep rising. He would drop the fines down a little.

9. Does the nature of the crime depend on the amount of jail time or fine amount?

It does, and the prior history does as well. Perjury is when you’re testifying under oath and if you lie while under oath. He believes that you should go to jail for that. You could lie and send an innocent person to jail. It depends on if it is a minor lie or not. If the lie did affect the case in any way than it is an automatic jail sentence. A lie is a lie though. Law that reduced her jail time for the time she had in jail requires it. Legal side of him says yes, it should depend on the nature of the crime, but the enforcement side of him no.

10. If the criminal has an assistant, should the assistant get less of a punishment then the actual criminal? For instant, aiding and abetting?

It is an equal sentence. Under the circumstances that you might not even know what they are doing, then no. But if you are aiding in a place like a robbery, then you should carry the same sentence.

11. If you were a judge, would you bring this problem up to make separate jails for violent crimes and nonviolent crimes?

Probably not because of costs. If costs were not a factor, then he would. It used to be segregated to low medium and high jails and that is how they separated the jails.

12. Do you think that your view on things agrees with other people? Why or why not?

Yes, because all officers are trained the same and think the same, when your looking at constitutional issues then some of the wording is reasonable. Most officers think the same way. As long as he is acted under the color of the law. As far as citizens, no, the large majority of citizens disagree because they don’t understand how the system works. As him being a supervisor, if you just take the time to explain it, you could just change the perspective of the citizen and see what the police officer actually does.

13. All criminals want a fine instead of jail time, how do you go about dealing with them when they try to sweet talk you?

It is the way he is trained. For instance, if it is a vehicle stop, then you are already supposed to know what they are to do no matter what. Unless there is another circumstance you don’t deviate from that.

14. For repeat offenders, do you think that criminals should be continued to be fined, or should they have jail time? Even if it is nonviolent?

If the criminal continues to violate the law then they should get the active sentence. Even if it is nonviolent, yes, because if they continue to get fined, and they still commit the same crime, then there is no point to continue to fine them. It is like a slap on the wrist. Although the sentences are a lot shorter, the criminals still get the jail time. Yes, they are going to become better criminals in the future.

15. If you were in control of the laws, how would you change them to your satisfaction regarding how much people get fined, and the line between jail time and being fined?

The idea behind fining for the costs of courts is to provide an alternative to jail. When the judicial branch first created that system, if they get a slap on the wrist, maybe that is like a “don’t do that again.” He would lower the costs and the fines would be kept a lot smaller. For the jail time, some need to be increased and some need to be decreased.

16. For something like speeding, do you think that it depends on how fast people are going and where it is located? Or should it not matter how much the jail time could be?

It is normally something more that gets you put in jail. Incarceration is more with bribery than with speeding. No, people shouldn’t go to jail for speeding. If it is a residential area then still no. If other people are involved, then it could careless and reckless, then you look at the totality of the situation. If someone runs like 80 miles in a 50 in a residential area and other people are involved, then possible incarceration.

Interview 3 – CPL Winner

1. If you pull somebody over, and they have drugs, do you think they should go to jail or be fined?

It depends on their history. If they are cooperative and they have no drug history and the crime is a misdemeanor, and then charge them by citation. If it is a big drug citation then they should go to jail and be written a bond. There are different types of drugs, some are arrestible. Simple possession is officer’s discretion.

2. What is your difference in fining someone and making someone go to jail?

Just the history on the record, it tells it all about someone. A 16 year old coming into court, and they have no history, then they would just be fined. It depends on the crime. Every crime is a penalty though. You have to look at the long term of that crime. Would the kid learn his lesson if he does go to jail? It depends on the kid. He has seen it on both ways. In this area, most people would learn better by going to jail.

3. Does drug smuggling and theft lead to jail or fines?

Jail time. If it is a small amount then no, a large amount, yes. It is usually large amounts. People who use and deal drugs normally, have weapons. People have to take them very seriously. They might potentially try to kill the officer. The officers have to follow proper safety measures.

4. Should it be just violent crimes that go to jail, or do you think it depends on the crime?

Nonviolent crimes should not go to jail. Again it depends on the history and discretion of judge and officer. Valance is a whole different category then driving without a license. If the crime can prove guilty without a reasonable doubt, then the criminal should go to jail. It depends on the record. If there a history of larceny, then yes, if no history, then give him either probation and ruling to pay money back and if not then go to jail.

5. What is the line between jail time and fines?

Charge and cooperativeness. The officers still can take the criminals to jail for any felony and any misdemeanor. It comes down to the history. It is more jail time for people who actually have the history behind it.

6. Do you think that some juries are unfair on people because of their background? Why? Do people change?

Yes because the prosecution and judge have state guidelines. A level 1 criminal has 0-2 crimes in their history. Level 2 criminals have 3-5 crimes in their history. Level 3 criminals have 5 or more crimes in their history. If there is 5 or more convictions then it is level 3. It is judges’ discretion whether they go to jail or not. It depends on the judge mostly. It is a lot of discretion when it comes down to sentencing purposes with guidelines though.

7. As a police officer, does it bother you that our jails are getting filled up with criminals who aren’t violent and then us not having enough room to put the violent criminals? Why or Why not?

Yes because he feels that there are people in jail that the people in jail are given more time for instance. Locked in jail for trespassing for 45 days and by law can only be locked up for 30. The system needs to change. Judicial statement getting the cases held more in court sooner so the jail time is less. It does bother him that nonviolent offenders are getting longer sentences.

8. If someone does get fined, how much do you think they should get fined?

What we have now is getting peoples attention based on courts cost. It continues to go up. It is fairly accurate. Nothing he would change.

9. Does the nature of the crime depend on the amount of jail time or fine amount?

Yes it does depend. It depends on anything. State laws to do this mandate all misdemeanors and felonies. It depends on the level of the crime and the chart.

10. If the criminal has an assistant, should the assistant get less of a punishment then the actual criminal? For instant, aiding and abetting?

No, because he feels that they are just as guilty if proven without a reasonable doubt. The assistant should be charged. If there is no probable cause to charge them, then there shouldn’t be a charge. It has to be proven without a reasonable doubt. He feels that people can do it for the thrill. There are parents with kids who do crimes because the parents will get more of a sentence. So the parents are encouraging their children to commit the crimes. If the child is old enough to where they think for themselves and they have no mental disorders, then the child should be charged. If there is cause to charge the adult, then they will to. It is just a little more investigation.

11. If you were a judge, would you bring this problem up to make separate jails for violent crimes and nonviolent crimes?

No, they should be housed together, they all committed crimes. Yes, it is always a potential that people will learn from the inmates. Cost is the big factor that people don’t understand. In the prisons, there are different areas of the prisons. Not in jails though.

12. Do you think that your view on things agrees with other people? Why or why not?

Yes, because they pretty much see the same things everyday. They deal with the same scenarios everyday. He sees the same things everyday. Not with society though because society doesn’t look as understandable as law enforcement. Yes, because a lot of citizens are trying to “throw the book at people” and go to jail and one of the persons are reasonable. His opinion would not agree with society because of this.

13. All criminals want a fine instead of jail time, how do you go about dealing with them when they try to sweet talk you?

There wasn’t much negotiation and he wasn’t going to change his mind. There was no negation. It depends on the cooperation, charge, and history.

14. For repeat offenders, do you think that criminals should be continued to be fined, or should they have jail time? Even if it is nonviolent?

Jail time because it depends on the amount of repeats. It is time to get their attention. They couldn’t keep raising the fines because the majority of people cant pays the fines if they keep rising. The only thing they can do is sending them to jail.

15. If you were in control of the laws, how would you change them to your satisfaction regarding how much people get fined, and the line between jail time and being fined?

He would keep everything the way it is. It is a good system the way it is currently. On the extremely violent offences he would change that to no possibility of parole in offences of first degree.

16. For something like speeding, to you say that it depends on how fast people are going and where it is located? Or should it not matter how much the jail time could be?

Most people don’t go to jail for speeding. Most of the time it is citation. If it is a tight residential neighborhood, then he could take them in. It is not normal to see them going faster then 15 mph over the speed limit. Still a citation and depends on the history even if it is 15mph over the speed limit. If someone has a family member injured, and then they are endangering others lives, then he could take them in. It is all officers’ discretion for speeding.

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