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A unit fine system is a judicial sentence in which the amount of the fine depends upon the offender's means.


Unit fine systems are common and standard in many jurisdictions across the world, notably in Scandinavia, where it originated in 1921 in Finland), and in Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.


In Europe the system has operated since 1921 in Finland. In Finland for example, a unit fine (uf) or "day fine" is described as follows:

"A fine is imposed as unit fines (uf). For instance, 20 uf at 10 euro = 200 euro. The more blameworthy the act, the more unit fines are imposed. The statutory maximum number of unit fines is 120 or, if the fine concerns several offences, 240. The amount of one unit fine depends on the income and assets of the convict. The amount of the unit fine on a wealthy person is more than that of a person of limited means, as the objective is that the penalty should constitute a proportionate intervention into the financial position of the convict regardless of his or her means. If the accused cannot account for his or her income and means, the district court will assess the same.

The amount of a unit fine is based on a person’s net income. The net income is the amount left to the person of his or her monthly income after the subtraction of taxes, compulsory insurance premiums and the unemployment insurance premium. Thereafter, 255 euro is subtracted from the net income. The amount arrived at is divided by 60. In addition, each underage child lowers the amount of the unit fine by 3 euros. Assets of over 85,000 euros increase the amount of the unit fine. The minimum amount of a unit fine is 6 euros.


  • A person earns 1,500 euro per month and has assets of less than 85,000 euro.

After taxes and other levies he is left with 1,000 euro.

  • Subtract 255 euro = 745 euro.
  • The amount of the unit fine is 745 euro divided by 60 = 12 euro.
  • If he has two children, subtract 2 x 3 euro = 6 euro.
  • The amount of the unit fine is 6 euro.
  • If he has been sentenced to 20 day fines for the offence, the total amount of the fine is 20 uf at 6 euro = 120 euro."

The system is also applied in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, Switzerland and Poland, and all of Scandinavia.

In France, a similar system exists ("Jours amendes") but there is a maximum amount of fine per day (1000 euro max per day) and the value of a day is chosen by a judge without any strict formula between resources and the amount due per day[1].

United Kingdom

England and Wales experimented with the system for a short period from 1992 to 1993. It was unpopular with both magistrates and the general public, and was soon abandoned.[2][3]


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