What is a fine?
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 (penalty) or just part of the sentence you receive for the offence. You might receive a fine for an offence such as drink driving or disorderly conduct.
Can I get a fine when I am not present in court?
Yes, you do not necessarily need to be present in court for a fine to be issued against you. For certain offences, you may receive a court hearing notice, which gives you the choice to attend court or not. If you choose not to attend or do not respond to the notice, the court can deal with the offence in your absence and may impose a penalty, such as a fine, in your absence.
If you are on bail, you must attend court. Go to Bail for more information about bail requirements.
What is the difference between a fine and an infringement notice?
An infringement notice is a notice issued by the police, local government authority or other prosecuting agency, requiring the payment of a sum of money as a penalty for breaching a particular law. The difference between a fine and an infringement is that an infringement notice does not have to be dealt with in court in order to be legally binding.
Infringement notices are issued for breaches of the law that are not as serious, such as minor traffic offences and parking offences. An infringement notice is often called a “ticket”, for example a “speeding ticket” or “parking ticket”.
Why do I need to know the difference between a fine and an infringement notice?
Different processes apply depending on whether you have received a fine or an infringement notice. There are different processes for:
- disputing payment
- seeking time to pay
- enforcing payment
- applying to have a licence suspension order set aside for non-payment
Where can I find information about dealing with an infringement notice?
Go to Infringement Notices for more detailed information.
What should I do if I receive a fine?
If a court imposes a fine on you, you have 28 days to pay that fine and any court costs that were also ordered to be paid. The total amount of fine and costs is referred to as your “fine” when it comes to payment and enforcement of payment.
Your fine does not include any other amounts the court may have told you to pay, such as restitution or compensation to a victim. Those amounts must be paid separately.
The fine must be paid at the Court Registry within the 28 day period.
Can I get more time to pay the fine?
If you need longer than 28 days to pay you should go to the Court Registry before the 28 days runs out, to ask for a time to pay order. You may be required to undergo a means test to check your income, in order to show the order is necessary. As part of this, you may have to provide documents such as pay slips or social security benefits and expenses to support your application. If you refuse a means test, you may be refused time to pay.
A time to pay order can allow you to:
- pay the fine by a set date, some time after the normal 28 day period, or
- pay the fine by instalments on or before set dates.
If you need to, you can amend the order by agreement with the Court Registry.
Be aware that if you breach the order by failing to pay as required, or by refusing to undergo a means test, the court officer handling your time to pay order can cancel it and require you to pay the full fine.
What if I dispute the fine?
If you consider that the fine you have received is too high or you dispute the conviction that led to the fine, you may be able to appeal the decisions. There are strict time limits that apply to appeals. You should get legal advice before commencing an appeal. Click here for more information about Appeals.
If the fine was imposed in your absence and you were not aware of the date when your matter was to be dealt with in court, or you were aware of the date but could not attend for a good reason, you can apply to the court to have the decision set aside and for the matter to be re-heard. In this case, you should seek legal advice.
You can seek legal advice from your own private lawyer or from a duty lawyer in the Magistrates Court. Click here for more information about Legal Aid WA's Duty Lawyer Service.
What happens if I do not pay the fine?
If you fail to pay your fine within 28 days or in accordance with your time to pay order, the fine will be registered with the Fines Enforcement Registry, which will handle the enforcement process.
The Registry will issue you with a notice of intention to suspend licence. This will inform you that unless the fine is paid within 28 days, your driver’s licence will be suspended.
What happens if I do not respond to the notice of intention to suspend licence?
If you fail to pay within 28 days of the issue of the notice of intention to suspend licence, the Registrar will make a licence suspension order. It is an offence to drive while you are subject to a licence suspension order. The licence suspension will remain in force until the fine and enforcement fees have been paid.
What can I do if my licence has been suspended for not paying a fine?
In certain circumstances, you may be able to have your licence suspension removed. For more information about licence suspension orders, see Licence suspension order for non-payment of a fine or infringement.
What other options does the Registry have to enforce payment?
Warrant of execution
Instead of suspending your licence, the Registry can try to get the fine paid by issuing a warrant of execution against you. This allows the Sheriff to take your furniture or other personal property for sale at auction. Before these items are taken, the Sheriff will visit you to decide which items to take.
A warrant of execution may be issued if you fail to pay within 28 days after a notice of intention to suspend licence is issued. It may also be issued after a licence suspension order is made. In this case, the licence suspension will be cancelled as soon as the warrant is issued.
Work and development order
A work and development order is an order requiring you to complete a period of unpaid community work instead of paying off the debt. The order will require you to work at least six hours of community work. A community corrections officer will assess you for suitability for this order.
A work and development order can be issued at any time after your fine is registered with the Fines Enforcement Registry, as an alternative to other forms of enforcement, if the Registrar is satisfied that:
- you do not have the means to pay the amount owed
- you do not hold a driver’s licence or you are already disqualified from driving
- a licence suspension order is unlikely to result in payment of the amount
- you do not have personal property that could be sold to cover the amount owed
- you will be unlikely to have the means or the property to sell within a reasonable time.
A work and development order can be issued after a warrant of execution has been issued, if there is an amount outstanding after the sale of your personal property. However, once the order is made, the warrant of execution ceases to be in force.
If a work and development order is issued, any licence suspension order imposed for the same fine will be cancelled.
The fine can be paid at any time during the work and development order and the order will then be cancelled.
For information about how many hours of community work you may have to do to pay off your fine, go to the page of the Attorney-General’s website called Consequences of not paying and scroll down to the heading Community service work and development orders.
Warrant of commitment
If you do not pay the fine and either:
- you do not complete the requirements of a work and development order
- a work and development order is not made or cannot be served on you
- a work and development order is made but cancelled
then the Registrar may issue a warrant of commitment. This means you will be arrested and sent to prison for a period of time calculated according to the amount of the fine.
You can still pay the fine at any time which will result in you being released from prison.
For information about how many days in prison you may have to serve to pay off your fine, go to the page of the Attorney-General’s website called Consequences of not paying and see under the heading Imprisonment.
I was under 18 years old when I was fined. What happens if I don’t pay my court fine?
The process for the enforcement of your fine will be different according to your current age.
If you were under 18 when you were fined and are still under 18, then the Children’s Court will deal with the failure to pay. The court will give you three choices:
- more time to pay the fine
- a community work order
- a detention order.
The court may also decline to make a detention order. This means that you cannot be imprisoned for failure to pay that fine and it cannot be registered with the Fines Enforcement Registry.
If you were under 18 when you were fined but have since turned 18, then the fine may be registered with the Fines Enforcement Registry as normal for adults. This will not happen, however, if other action has been taken to deal with the matter, for example a work and development order has been made.
Where can I get more information?
- By calling the Fines Enforcement Registry on 1300 650 235 or on (08) 9235 0235 for eastern states/mobile callers.
- By attending at your nearest Magistrates Court registry. See Court locations and contacts on the Magistrates Court website to locate your nearest Magistrates Court registry.
- See Fines and infringements on the Department of the Attorney-General's website.
- Legal Aid WA's InfoLine on 1300 650 579.
Last reviewed: 13/02/2013