Fines to double

PHOTO: motherjones.com

This coming Wednesday, the Riigikogu is intending to pass a doubling of the fine unit thus creating the potential to punish offences twice as severely. Police promises to go carefully with raising fines. 

«In case we pass the law like this, the police must surely undergo training on how to impose the penalties in real life,» said former interior minister Kalle Laanet (Reform).

In the parliament, he is among those not supportive of fines raised so steeply. «I do not think such rise is reasonable,» he said. Though Mr Laanet is not alone in his opposition at the coalition, the measure is likely to be passed just the same.

«I agree with these doubts but then maximum fine is not the usual practice at police and my personal experience with the police says they are relatively reasonable,» said Valdo Randpere, member at the legal affairs committee which prepared the bill.

Mr Randpere said the police will retain the right of discretion though the new rates allow for outwardly absurd fines to be imposed. As an example of that, for walking drunk and without a reflex reflector, people may face fines up to €800. «These punishments might be reviewed for this really sounds stupid,» suggested Mr Randpere.

While the current fine unit is €4, the new would be eight euros. The steep rise is justified by claiming that the rate has basically stayed the same since 2001 and have thus lost their sting on offenders.   The latest cosmetic change was as Estonia adopted the euro in 2011 when the fine unit was rounded from €3.8 to €4. Coalition treaty prescribes doubling of the unit and starting 2016 the state budget thus counts on €10m extra from fines. For budget revenues, this is weighty as allowing for instance to fill the hole created by tax free pension income rate.

According to Police and Border Guard Board deputy director-general Joosep Kaasik they police is definitely not planning to fine twice as much come May. «We will see that the fines will continue to be real and will evaluate each offence separately,» said Mr Kaasik.

He said the principle of reasonableness is still paramount with fines and it is the serial offenders who should fear – not the ordinary people. For Estonia to have a single penal practice, the police headquarters has issued prefectures relevant guidelines and as the fine unit gets raised, they are currently working with changing these.

Probably, the new guidelines will also prescribe smaller fines for certain infringements. Thus, it is hoped that the new fine rates will not get in conflict with the perception of justice in the society. «We are currently still at work with the guidelines,» said Mr Kaasik.

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