fine. 1 In criminal law, sum of money exacted by a lawful tribunal as punishment for a crime. In the case of misdemeanors and minor infractions of the law, convicted persons ordinarily have the alternative of paying a fine or undergoing a short term of imprisonment. This practice has been condemned at times as potentially exposing the poor to more onerous punishment than the well-to-do. Fines are also sometimes imposed in convictions for felony, usually in addition to a prison sentence. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits the imposition of excessive fines, but the Supreme Court has never found that any statutory fine violated that provision. 2 In the law of the transfer of land, a legal fiction for permitting the sale of lands in entail. The fine, first worked out in the 15th cent., is in the form of a suit to determine the ownership of land. The buyer sues the seller, who accedes to the buyer's claim that his right of ownership is superior. The judgment of the court to this effect constitutes the buyer's title. The fine was formerly widely used in England and the United States, but simplified methods of defeating the entail have made it obsolete. 3 In feudal law, payment to the lord for rights relating to tenancy, e.g., for the privilege of releasing to another or acquiring for oneself the tenancy of land.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.