Search for statistics on arrest warrants in Ferguson, and you will be horrified. 1.5x as many arrest warrants as people. 75% of the population has an outstanding arrest warrant, and almost all of these arrest warrants are for non-payment of fines. This is completely beyond ridiculous, and the causes are simple racism and profit motive. You can also find statistics online that simple fines – fines for minor traffic offenses and minor non-traffic offenses likejaywalking – make up a significant portion of the city’s budget. In the current fiscal year, I have found sources saying as high as 25% of the cities budget comes from this incredibly regressive city-income system that disproportionately targets the poor. The net effect is that this city is only a few steps away from being a literal slave plantation.
We need to fix this. I propose the following constitutional amendment. I am not a lawyer, and I might have missed something obvious, and the language might be unusual – so my apologies for that.
Proposed Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
Monetary penalties are just, and monetary penalties are often the most effective and least obnoxious form of penalty for civil and criminal violations. However, when government has the authority and discretion to impose a monetary penalty, this creates an incentive for the government to impose unnecessary penalties and excessive penalties in order to fund its own operation. This is especially true when a small government agency or city has both the authority and discretion to impose a monetary penalty and personally receives the money of the penalty. This conflict of interest often has the unconscionable result of funding the government through the equivalent of extreme regressive taxation. It also tends to increase the power and scope of government towards tyranny. To remedy this evil, the following rules are imposed:
All monetary penalties that are awarded to the federal government shall be put into a single global fund. Once per year, this fund shall be emptied and the contents shall be distributed evenly to every citizen of the United States. The federal government may use money from this fund to pay for the distribution of the remaining funds. The federal government shall have no authority to use money from this fund for any other purpose.
All monetary penalties awarded to a State (including its cities, counties, and any other organization whose power is a product of the authority of the State) shall be put into a single global fund for that State. Once per year, this fund shall be emptied and the contents shall be distributed evenly to every resident of that State. The State government may use money from this fund to pay for the distribution of the remaining funds. The State government shall have no authority to use money from this fund for any other purpose.
The rules of sections 2 and 3 include all situations where the coffers of the government would profit from imposing any penalty for a violation of the law. The following examples are mere guidelines for this general principle.
All normal taxation is exempt from this amendment, including income taxation, land taxation, sales taxation, and tariffs.
All punitive damages awarded to the government in all cases is governed by this amendment.
Some compensatory damages awarded to the government are exempt, and others are not exempt.
Normal fees for use of government services are exempt from this amendment, including toll roads, patent application fees, and the like.
However, if the use of a government service is part of a common practice response to handle a violation of the law, then any fees to use that government service are controlled by this amendment. This includes all court fees for criminal defendants and civil defendants against government prosecution and litigation. This includes any fees for probation or jail (which are arguably unjust, but that is not the point of this amendment).
Any resident or citizen of the United States shall have standing to bring legal action to seek judicial enforcement of this amendment. Any lesser courts designated by the Congress and the States shall have original jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court of the United States shall have final appellate jurisdiction.