Penalties from the Census Bureau: Are they ever enforced?
Perhaps you’re too lazy to fill out your 2010 Census questionnaire. Perhaps you don’t believe that the government has the right to know your personal information. Perhaps you are living in this country illegally and don’t want to come under suspicion. Whether your like it or not, every person in America is required by law to complete their census form (or their American Community Survey if they are part of the 1 in 40 households destined for a more thorough demographic investigation).
The Census Bureau lists the punishments for failing to complete a census survey. However, it is unknown with what, if any, strength or frequency the following punishments are actually enforced, because if they were enforced, that would mean that millions of Americans would owe the federal government $100 each for failing to complete the decennial survey. This begs the question: What is the purpose of having a law on the books if it is never actually enforced? Here are the Census Bureau’s fine/penalty guidelines:
(a) Whoever, being over eighteen years of age, refuses or willfully
neglects, when requested by the Secretary, or by any other authorized
officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency
thereof acting under the instructions of the Secretary or authorized
officer, to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions
on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any census or survey
provided for by subchapters I, II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title,
applying to himself or to the family to which he belongs or is related,
or to the farm or farms of which he or his family is the occupant, shall
be fined not more than $100.
(b) Whoever, when answering questions described in subsection (a) of
this section, and under the conditions or circumstances described in
such subsection, willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be
fined not more than $500.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no person
shall be compelled to disclose information relative to his religious
beliefs or to membership in a religious body.