Who keeps the fines issued by courts?

On a general note, if a judge says, “One hundred dollars fine for contempt of court.”, who gets the money? Does it go back to the general fund of the county/town that is running the court?

On a specific note:
In my state, strikes by public school teachers are illegal. In one local town, the teachers went on strike. On the second day, the union was taken to court. The judge ordered the teachers to go back to work. The union ignored the order. On the third day, the judge levied a $25000(?) fine against the union. The strike was eventually settled a day or two later.

How does one ascertain whether the fine was actually paid. I’d like to know whether the fine an actual penalty or an empty threat that the union knew they would never pay. If the fine was paid, who keeps the money?

Based on this description, I don’t think the judge levied a fine. Rather, the judge held the union in contempt of court (for disobeying an order). The sanction for such contempt, if it was a person, might be jail time. But in this case, the sanction was monetary.

That might seem like a fine, but it’s slightly different. Because, if a court holds a person or entity in contempt, they must be able to “purge” the contempt by complying. For a person, that might mean getting out of jail. For the union in this case, it means being relieved of the obligation to pay.

(So, long story short: the judge probably didn’t actually order the union to pay that amount. Rather, the judge probably ordered that amount as a sanction that would apply unless and until the union complied).

As to where collected money actually goes? It’s always been my understanding that fines/fees/costs go to paying the expenses of the clerk’s office (I.e, the office that processes and files papers for the courts). Depending on the jurisdiction, though, it might go into a general fund. It’d be downright scandalous, I’d think, if the money was able to be accessed, or directed, by the judge.

Where court fees and fines go varies tremendously by state and locality.

According to the city’s Wikipedia page, speeding tickets issued to out-of-state drivers on I-95 make up a goodly percentage of the revenue of not only Emporia, Virginia, but of the entire county.

In Hampton Roads, we have lots of jokes about Emporia. “The weather went from 70 to 35 like it was passing through Emporia.”

IANAJ but back when I was working I conducted a lot of hearings. And the hearings had a mandatory five dollar surcharge if the inmate was found guilty.

I believe the purpose of the surcharge was to cover the administrative cost of the hearing. Which, quite frankly, was specious. I was the person do the administrative work and I never got paid anything extra for doing it. It was just part of my job, for which I was paid my salary, regardless of whether I did a thousand hearings or none. (I feel it would have been wrong if I had received the money and therefore had a financial incentive to find inmates guilty.)

So I assume the money that was collected went into some general fund where it was used for regular expenses. I don’t know at what level the fund was kept; facility, department, or state, or if it was split between them.


As said before, it depends. In some jurisdictions (like mine) it’s paid into the national or sub-national treasury. In others, it goes into the Courts own fund.

Years ago, I served on a state legislative commission to re-codify all non-felony criminal statutes. One thing we were specifically warned to stay away from was any modifications to the formula that divides up the collected fine money.

It was very complicated with portions going to the agency that the ticketing officer works for, the city/county/state that owns the road where it happened, the court where the case would be adjudicated, plus various special programs (if drinking-related, a small percentage goes to anti-DWI programs, if speed-related, a percentage to anti-speeding initiatives, if during holiday periods, a small percentage to safe holiday programs, etc.).
And this all had been worked out over many years and many legislative bills, so re-opening it in any way would bring out all the people from every agency involved, and kill any chances for our changes being passed.

I thought it always goes whoever lands on Free Parking.

Fictional example, so I don’t know if this ever happens in real life:

In one of Michael Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer novels, lawyer Mickey Haller is late arriving at court, and the judge gives him a choice between a contempt citation or a “freely given” check written to the Children’s Miracle Network.