A Finnish Man Got a $60,000 Speeding Ticket — and That's Exactly What It Should Be

A Finnish Man Got a $60,000 Speeding Ticket — and That's Exactly What It Should Be
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Millionaires of the world, beware of Finnish traffic law.

The BBC reports that when businessman Reima Kuisla was pulled over for going 64 mph in a 50-mph zone in Finland, he was tagged with a 54,000-euro fine, or just short of $60,000. Ouch.

Most people would consider anything north of $100 quite painful, but in Finland, speeding fines are calculated based on the perpetrator's daily income. Finnish authorities looked at Kuisla's 2013 tax returns and found he made 6.5 million euros (around $7.15 million) that year. Based on that figure, Kuisla was ordered to pay the 54,000-euro fine.

Kuisla, bitterly complaining the country was making it too hard for "certain kinds of people" to survive, wrote an all-caps Facebook post that, according to the BBC, roughly reads:

"TEN YEARS AGO I WOULDN'T HAVE BELIEVED THAT I WOULD SERIOUSLY CONSIDER MOVING ABROAD. FINLAND IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LIVE IN FOR CERTAIN KINDS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE HIGH INCOMES AND WEALTH."

Cry me a river: Most countries have a progressive tax code, under which the rich pay a greater proportion of their income than the middle class or poor. Finland also happens to have a progressive criminal code.

"This is a Nordic tradition," Ministry of the Interior special planning adviser Erkki Wuoma told the Wall Street Journal in 2001. "We have progressive taxation and progressive punishments. So the more you earn, the more you pay."

Though 54,000 euros may seem steep, Kuisla's fine works out to approximately 0.83% of his reported income. That would translate to a fine of approximately $415 for a person making $50,000 — certainly high by American standards, but not exactly devastating. Considering speeding on the highway can be a matter of life or death for both the driver and any others around him, perhaps higher fines shouldn't be so easily dismissed.

A French motorcycle cop uses a radar gun to check speeds of passing cars on the highway.
Source: 
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/Getty Images

The theory goes that since the rich can more easily afford to pay high tickets, progressive fines prevent them from walking away from crimes and misconduct with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The $60,000 fine might infuriate right-wingers and the rich, but it's actually just a method of ensuring that the very wealthy have to live and play by the same rules as the rest of the rabble. "Certain kinds of people" get no special treatment.

Such a system might look unimaginable in the U.S., where the moneyed elite can wreck the entire economy and walk away without any penalties whatsoever. But both the BBC and the Wall Street Journal reported that the progressive fine system is rather popular in Finland. As the Guardian notes, an attempt to cap the fines in 2001 was "thoroughly rejected by parliament."

Not a problem for the rich: To put this in perspective, compare and contrast how Finland and the U.S. treat the wealthiest of their reckless motorists.

Take Alice Walton. As Mic reported in January 2014, the billionaire Walmart heiress has been involved in a disturbing series of alleged drunk-driving incidents (including one that killed a 50-year-old cannery worker). Not only did she evade any punishment or jail time, but all of the charges were totally expunged.

In fact, according to 1998 testimony reported by the Los Angeles Times, Walton saw herself as being so above the law that when she drove drunk and totaled an SUV in Springdale, Arkansas, she rhetorically asked the responding officers charging her with a DWI, "Do you know who I am? Do you know my last name?"

Alice Walton
Source: 
APRIL BROWN/AP

On the other hand, poor people, especially racial minorities, have no such recourse. In fact, they're often targeted for tickets. In Illinois, a WBBM Newsradio analysis found that 61% of stopped minorities were issued a ticket. That number was just 52% for whites. 

Other studies have produced similar results in various locations, as well as found the problem extends past just traffic tickets. In New York, for example, blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be ticketed than whites in low-crime mainly white neighborhoods.

When people can't pay their fines, they can often land in jail. A 2014 NPR investigation found that debtors' prisons remain common in state and local jurisdictions throughout the country, usually for people who can't pay civil fines. Nicole Bolden of Missouri claims she spent an entire weekend being mistreated in jail in 2014 because she couldn't afford to immediately pay off $1,758 in parking tickets.

A $60,000 traffic ticket for a multimillionaire seems like a relative inconvenience compared to that.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."