There are five main factors that judges often consider when determining the severity of a sentence: prior record, conduct after the offense was committed, actions in court, nature of the charge, and whether a bench trial is pursued in traffic court, Avvo notes. The harshness or lenience of the judge’s sentence then dictates the amount of the fine a defendant must pay.
When determining criminal sentences, which may have a monetary component, judges often consider whether the offense in question was a first-time or repeat offense and whether it entailed excessive cruelty, destructiveness or vindictiveness, according to FindLaw. The judge may also take into account whether or not there are victims of the crime and the severity and nature of their injuries. Additionally, the judge may consider whether the defendant is the main offender, as opposed to an accessory of the crime, or was under duress when committing the offense. Judges sometimes also take into account whether the defendant displays remorse for his offense.
Harsher sentences, and thus applicable larger fines, are more likely if the offense is a repeat offense, if the defendant committed the offense while serving in a position of authority or leadership, if the offense was motivated by hate, or if there are mandatory sentencing minimums, including mandatory minimum fines, in place for the offense, Justia notes. Mitigating factors that may result in a lighter sentence and a lesser fine include mental illness, past circumstances leading to the criminal activity such as abuse, and provocation or emotional duress at the time of the crime.