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October 20, 2015

"For Offenders Who Can’t Pay, It’s a Pint of Blood or Jail Time"

The title of this post is the headline of this New York Times story of a remarkable local sentencing story out of Alabama.  Here is how the article starts:

Judge Marvin Wiggins’s courtroom was packed on a September morning. The docket listed hundreds of offenders who owed fines or fees for a wide variety of crimes — hunting after dark, assault, drug possession and passing bad checks among them.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” began Judge Wiggins, a circuit judge here in rural Alabama since 1999. “For your consideration, there’s a blood drive outside,” he continued, according to a recording of the hearing. “If you don’t have any money, go out there and give blood and bring in a receipt indicating you gave blood.”

For those who had no money or did not want to give blood, the judge concluded: “The sheriff has enough handcuffs.”

Efforts by courts and local governments to generate revenue by imposing fines for minor offenses, particularly from poor and working­class people, have attracted widespread attention and condemnation in recent months. But legal and health experts said they could not think of another modern example of a court all but ordering offenders to give blood in lieu of payment, or face jail time. They all agreed that it was improper.

October 20, 2015 at 11:59 PM | Permalink


If the defendant consents, specify the problem with this remedy.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 21, 2015 7:07:13 AM

I give blood to the Red Cross 5-6 times a year. Can I build up a "future crimes" payment account?

If only those who consented gave blood and received a variation to their current proposed penalties, the only objectors would likely be those who have a cash stake in the current "Justus" system.

Posted by: albeed | Oct 21, 2015 9:20:20 AM

Each blood donation benefits many people, but not the lawyer profession. So this innovative idea gets mocked, and will be stopped by an appellate court. The donation should be valued at market price retail, $400 a pint. So the fine is $200, the court needs to refund the defendant to avoid unjust enrichment.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 21, 2015 10:12:44 AM

I'm torn...I personally do not think this gimmick is "improper" in and of itself. My problem is that it sets a bad precedent. What next: a kidney for a rape?

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 21, 2015 11:00:34 AM


I'll add this in for context.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 21, 2015 11:04:47 AM

Daniel. In another law subject, I have advocated for presumed organ donation. The government would harvest all useful organs in the absence of expressed desire to not donate. Objection from families would be crushed. Family members would be arrested for interference, their lawyers disbarred.

I also support the free market approach to donation.

The stakes? 50,000 middle aged people with tremendous abilities and responsibilities that die waiting for an organ each year. If you like killing all those great people, and arguing over the execution drug of a serial killer, thank the stupid, horrible people running our country, the tyrannical undergrads in the lawyer profession.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 21, 2015 12:40:12 PM

Great advertising gimmick for the blood banks: associate giving blood with criminality and punishment! That oughtta increase donations.

Posted by: Boffin | Oct 21, 2015 12:42:24 PM

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