fines and penalties

We’re always hearing about some company being fined an enormous sum of money or even a prisoner getting a stiff sentence plus a fine.
Ok the company can write a check, but how does the prisoner pay back $100,000?

So where does this money go ? a general fund
The recent SEC news fined a company - where does that money go?

All these fines must be helping the budget crisis right?

The answer will likely vary greatly with each jurisdiction, and possibly even within jurisdictions.

In Canada, although the Criminal Code is a federal statute, it’s enforced by the provincial Attorneys General in provincial courts, so the fines go to the general revenue fund of the provinces. Fines under provincial statutes normally also go to the provinces, with some exceptions. For example, when a municipality is enforcing provincial statues (e.g. - speeding laws) in municipal courts, then the fines sometimes go to the municipalities.

But as for the fines offsetting budget crises - not likely. You have to factor in all the costs of operating the police force, the Crown prosecutors, the court system, and the salaries of judges, so I’d be very surprised if the provinces came out ahead. Even in cases of major fines, the cost of getting to trial likely outweigh the fines, since major fines are normally only awarded in major cases, which take a large amount of resources to bring to trial.

(This is all just my personal impression, of course, based on some experience with the justice system. I don’t have any stats to back it up.)