We all hate being issued with a fi ne but it’s never a good idea to hide that pesky piece of paper in a drawer and hope it will go away. It won’t! If you find yourself struggling to pay a fine, ignoring it will only turn a little problem into a big one.

The good news is that state or territory debt recovery agencies offer a number of options if you are having difficulty meeting your payment obligations. You can negotiate a payment plan or apply for an extension of the due date.

Fines and infringement notices are different

Fines and infringement notices are slightly different but are often confused as both attract a financial penalty. An important difference is that you can serve time in custody for an unpaid fine but not for an unpaid infringement.

An infringement notice is a notice issued by the police, local government authority or other prosecuting agency alleging that you have breached a law. You will be given the opportunity to pay a fixed amount of money rather than go to court.

An infringement notice – often called a ‘ticket’ – is generally issued for less serious breaches of the law, minor traffic offences and parking offences. A fine is an amount of money that a judge, magistrate or justice of the peace in court may order you to pay as a penalty for committing an offence. A fine may be the whole sentence or just part of the sentence. For example, you may receive a fine for a drink driving offence but also have driving demerit points added to your record for the offence.

Different processes apply depending on whether you have received a fi ne or an infringement notice. These processes include:

• Disputing the payment

• Seeking time to pay

• Enforcing payment

• Applying to have a license suspension order set aside for non-payment

Types of fines and infringements

There are many different types of fines and infringements including:

• Parking tickets

• Traffic infringement notices

• Fare evasion tickets

• Littering fines

• Fines for not wearing a helmet

• Fines for public nuisance or offensive behavior

• Court enforcement notices

In some cases, fines will be reviewed for special circumstances such as a mental disability or illness, a serious drug or alcohol addiction that resulted in your being unable to understand or control your behaviour at the time of the offence or homelessness.

What if you are struggling to pay?

If a fine has arrived at a tight time financially and you are having difficulty paying there are options available if you negotiate with the debt recovery agency in your state. These include:

• Being granted an extension to pay

• Entering into a payment plan

• Performing community service to work off the debt

• Being issued with a caution in certain circumstances, for example if you suffer from a mental illness, intellectual disability or you are homeless

Consequences of not paying

There are serious consequences if you don’t pay your fine or enter into a payment arrangement. Ignoring a fine may result in:

• Suspension or cancellation of your driver’s license or car registration

• Court enforcement action

• Publication of your name on a website determined by the Fines Enforcement and Recovery Officer

• Civil enforcement where your possessions can be taken and sold

• Having some of your wages taken

• Having a charge registered over your land

Remember – if you can’t pay a fi ne, it is important to do something about it because doing nothing can lead to enforcement action, further fees and yet more unhappiness.

And if you are thinking of applying for a loan any time soon you may be surprised to learn most official unpaid fines are recorded on your credit history. Unpaid parking fines, outstanding accounts at video stores and even library fines can all cause black marks on a credit rating!

Getting help from state debt recovery agencies

Your letters/notices will state the debt recovery agency you need to contact. Below are website details for each state – or check your infringement notice. The websites have information that will help you negotiate payment of your fines.

• ACT –

• NSW –

• NT –

• QLD –

• SA –

• TAS –

• VIC –

• WA –


*Disclaimer: This article is generic in nature. All investment decisions should be considered wisely and based on your personal and  nancial circumstances. Seek proper advice before committing to any course of investment action. This is not deemed as advice.

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