What Is the Difference Between a Fine and a Forfeiture in Wisconsin?

Related Articles

The traditional penalty for a crime committed in the U.S. is a fine or jail time. Lost civil disputes bring damages payable to the opposing party in the case, and possibly a fine. In the state of Wisconsin, the court system has the option of using forfeiture as a penalty; however, this type of forfeiture is not the traditional concept used in sports. It is very different from the traditional fine.

Forfeiture is a Penalty Imposed by the Court

The Wisconsin Statute 778.01 defines a forfeiture as a penalty imposed by the court in the form of money or goods. Several statutes from traffic violations to infractions against municipal ordinances to civil disputes are penalized with a forfeiture. Upon sentencing, the convicted parties turn the goods or money specified by the court over to the state or municipality.

Any goods are liquidated and the funds are used to repay the fees and court costs associated with the case. In civil cases, the other party involved is compensated.

Relationship Between Forfeiture and a Fine

Sometimes the forfeiture is described as a fine, but the two are different. A forfeiture is separate from the fine portion of a criminal sentence or civil judgment, as a forfeiture and a fine are both handed down as punishment. Fines are payable to the courts or a jail term is assigned, while the state or municipality owed a forfeiture has to go through the civil court system to collect the property or monetary forfeiture.

Another difference is that a forfeiture is not assigned with a jail term, while a fine is.

Additional Fees Can be Added to a Forfeiture

One the more prominent differences between a fine and a forfeiture is the fine is a one-time payment that includes all that you owe the court for your offence. A forfeiture, however, is just the base price of the penalty, according to the Wisconsin Courts fee table. For example, a civil judgment of a forfeiture valued at just $10 comes with court costs, a penalty surcharge, a jail surcharge, a fee to the crime and drug lab, a court support fee and a jail information fee for a total forfeiture valued at $150.10 in money or property.

Additional offenses add to the cost of the forfeiture. For example, domestic abuse can add another $100 to the forfeiture. The offenses that bring additional fees are consumer protection violations, harms to the environment, the involvement of weapons, natural resources or failure to insure employees (for workers compensation cases).

Recovering Unpaid Forfeitures

According to Wisconsin Statute 778.027, prosecutors cannot accept payments to change a criminal’s charge to one that is punishable by a forfeiture instead of a jail term. To recover the forfeiture that is unpaid after a case, the plaintiff must join the prosecution and sue the criminal defendant (if the courts dictated a forfeiture to compensate the victim). Otherwise, the forfeitures are payable to the state of Wisconsin or the municipality where the violation occurred.

When a forfeiture is imposed, the courts must specify each offense and its individual forfeiture amount. Out-of-state criminals or those who owe from civil court may have a body attachment or warrant issued if the forfeiture isn’t paid in a timely manner that is specified by the court.

Tips

  • A forfeiture is a penalty imposed by the court in the form of money or goods. Fines are payable to the courts or a jail term is assigned, while the state or municipality owed a forfeiture has to go through the civil court system to collect the property or monetary forfeiture. Another difference is that a forfeiture is not assigned with a jail term, while a fine is.