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A penalty is the punishment imposed upon a person who has violated the law, whether or a contract, a rule, or regulation. A penalty can be in response to either civil or criminal violations, though civil penalties are usually less severe. Some penalties require only the payment of some amount of money that is determined either by statute or by a judge, based on the level of harm suffered by the other party. Other penalties require that the losing party surrender property. The violation of more severe crimes can be accompanied by even harsher penalties, including imprisonment or even death, though the death penalty is restricted to capital offenses and is not a penalty that can be imposed in every state.

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]