A fine is an amount of money that a court orders you to pay as a penalty for committing an offence. A fine may be the whole penalty (sentence), or just part of the penalty you receive for your offence. In most cases, you will have to pay an extra amount to cover court costs in addition to your penalty.
If you don’t pay your court fines on time, or make an agreement to pay regular amounts over time, your driver’s licence may be suspended by the Fines Enforcement Registry. In serious cases, you could end up having to spend time in prison as a result of unpaid fines.
This information will help you to understand more about court fines.
- When you might get a fine
- What to do if you don’t agree with a fine
- How long you get to pay a fine
- What happens if you don’t pay a fine
- Whether you can cut out fines while in prison
Can I be given a fine when I am not present in court?
Yes. Sometimes the court can fine you in your absence. If you were not in court when you were convicted, you might be able to have the fine and conviction set aside and reheard.
What if I don’t agree with the fine?
You may be able to appeal the court's decision. There are strict time limits that apply. You should get legal advice as soon as possible after you receive your fine.
How long do I get to pay the fine?
28 days. If you need more time, go to the court registry before the 28 days run out, to apply for time to pay.
A time to pay order can allow you to:
- pay the fine by a later date, or
- pay the fine by regular instalments.
If you are paying by instalments, you can do this in person or have regular amounts taken out of a bank account. You can also use Centrepay to have money deducted from your Centrelink benefits.
You can change or cancel the order by agreement with the court registry.
You may need to show that a time to pay order is necessary. This might involve providing documents, such as pay slips, bank statements, or Centrelink summaries to support your application.
Note that you cannot apply for time to pay if:
- an Enforcement Warrant is in place
- a Work and Development Permit is in place
- an ongoing Fine Expiation Order is in place, or
- a Warrant of Commitment is in place.
However, you can apply for time to pay even if:
- there is a Licence Suspension Order against you
- you have been ordered to Attend for Work and Development
- there is a Work and Development Order against you, or
- a Warrant of Commitment Inquiry is ongoing.
If a time to pay order is made, any Licence Suspension Order against you, any Order to Attend for Work and Development or Work and Development Order must be cancelled.
There is more information about these orders below.
What if I miss a payment?
If you breach the time to pay order by failing to pay as required, the order can be cancelled immediately. This can happen even if you thought you had paid the instalment. It might happen because there isn't enough money in your bank account or your Centrelink benefits are cut-off or suspended.
What happens if I don’t pay?
Your fine will be registered with the Fines Enforcement Registry. If you don’t pay the fine, the registrar may:
- make a Licence Suspension Order to stop you from driving
- issue an Enforcement Warrant to sell your property, clamp your car or issue a Garnishee Order (to allow funds to be taken out of your salary or bank account, subject to a minimum amount which is left untouched)
- issue a Work and Development Permit
- issue an Order to Attend for Work and Development (which may lead to a Work and Development Order being made, to do unpaid community work instead of paying the fine)
- issue a Fine Expiation Order
- as a last resort, apply to the Magistrates Court for a Warrant of Commitment Inquiry – this may result in the Court ordering that a Warrant of Commitment be issued (to spend time in prison instead of paying the fine)
- publish your details on a website.
Your fine includes court costs but does not include any other amounts the court may have ordered you to pay, such as restitution or compensation to a victim. Those amounts must be paid separately. If you don't pay those amounts, the victim can ask the court to enforce the order against you.
What can I do if there’s a Licence Suspension Order against me, but I need my car for work or because I live in a remote area?
The registrar cannot make a Licence Suspension Order against you if you have given information showing that such an order would stop you or your family from being able to access urgent medical treatment or from doing your job or make it difficult for you to meet family or personal responsibilities.
The registrar also cannot make a Licence Suspension Order against you if your address is in a ‘remote area’. You can find a list of WA remote areas on the WA government Fines Enforcement Registry webpage.
If a Licence Suspension Order is nonetheless made against you, you can apply to have it cancelled.
What is a Work and Development Permit?
A Work and Development Permit allows you to complete certain activities instead of paying your fine.
You are eligible if you experience hardship, including financial hardship, family violence, mental illness, disability, homelessness, or alcohol or other drug use problems.
If you have a Work and Development Permit, you can undertake activities such as unpaid work, medical treatment or an educational course.
The application must be made through a sponsor. Legal Aid WA’s Work and Development Permit Service can help match people experiencing hardship with community sponsors.
Can I cut out my fines while I am in prison?
If you are on remand or a sentenced prisoner and you cannot pay your fines, you can apply to cut out unpaid fines at the same time. This is called applying for a Fine Expiation Order.
You can apply for a Fine Expiation Order in relation to a period of imprisonment you are currently serving or, if you are no longer in custody, in relation to a period of imprisonment that has ended. However, you cannot cut out fines in relation to any imprisonment before 29 September 2020, or before your fine was imposed.
To apply, you need to fill in an application form (available on the Fines Enforcement Registry webpage).
Ask the Transitional Manager at the prison or contact the Fines Enforcement Registry for more information.
You cannot use time in prison to cut out unpaid infringements.
Reviewed: 13 August 2021