Receiving a fine is already a frustrating experience, but struggling to find out how to pay your fine or to check your balance can make things even worse.
Here’s some general information about what fines are, how to check if you have a fine and what happens if you don’t pay one.
What is a ‘fine’?
A ‘fine’ is a financial penalty you have to pay to the government for allegedly breaking a law.
Fines can be issued through a range of mechanisms, including penalty notices, infringement notices, criminal infringement notice (CIN) and court orders.
Fines are commonly issued in New South Wales for:
- Traffic infringements such as speeding fines, red-light camera fines and fines for illegal mobile phone use.
- Public Transport fines such as not having a valid ticket whilst travelling.
- Local Council fines such as parking fines and littering notices.
- Minor criminal offences, which are often dealt with by criminal infringement notices for offences such as drug possession, shoplifting and offensive conduct.
It’s important to be sure you are paying an actual fine and not a private notice to pay, sometimes referred to as a ‘private fine’, which private business sometimes try to impose for trespasses such as parking without authorisation in a privately owed car park.
Private fines are not really fines at all, but are a private dispute between yourself and an organisation. In some circumstances, you may not even be obliged to pay for a ‘private fine’.
Not paying fines
When you receive a fine, there will be a due date by which you need to pay.
If you don’t pay in time, it will be sent to Revenue NSW who will issue a penalty reminder notice to you stating that you must pay within 28 days.
Revenue NSW collects debts for the government in New South Wales.
If you don’t pay your fine after 28 days, an overdue fine will be issued. Currently, Revenue NSW will add $65.00 (or $25.00 for under 18s) to the amount of the fine when it issues an overdue fine.
If the debt remains unpaid, Revenue NSW will issue an enforcement order.
An enforcement order could result in certain actions being taken against you to recover the debt. This could include: the suspension of your driver licence, cancellation of registration, garnishing of your bank account or wages, seizure of your property by the sheriff.
To avoid an enforcement order coming, you should check and pay your fines as soon as you can or, if you believe it has been issued in error, request a review or elect to take the matter to court as soon as possible.
How to check if you have a fine in NSW
If you have received an initial notice or a penalty reminder notice, you can pay the fine or check your balance via the Revenue NSW website.
You will need the penalty / payment reference number at the top of your notice.
If your fine is overdue and an enforcement order has been issued, you will need to search via myEnforcementOrder portal.
You will need the document reference number at the top of your notice.
You can also pay your fine or check your balance via the myServiceNSW app.
I’ve lost my infringement or penalty notice, can I still check?
If you have lost the payment or document reference number listed on your notice, you can still enquire about and pay your fine.
If your fine is not yet overdue, you can call Revenue NSW on either 1300 138 118 or 02 7808 6940 or via the Fine Enquiry Form.
If your fine is overdue, you can call Revenue NSW on either 1300 655 805 or 02 7808 6941 or via the Overdue Fine Enquiry Form.
Revenue NSW phone lines are attended from 7:30am to 8:00pm, Monday to Friday.
You will need the following information as proof of identification when calling:
- Address details;
- Date of birth;
- Licence number (if relevant);
- Registration number (if relevant).
Challenging a fine
If you believe there has been a mistake in issuing you a fine or there are other reasons that contributed to the offence that need to be considered, you can request a review.
Factors likely to result in leniency or cancellation of a fine include:
- The offence did not take place or the fine has been issued in error;
- You were not responsible for the vehicle at the time of offence;
- For demerit offences, that you have a good driving history;
- A medical emergency or crisis explains why the offence took place;
- You have an intellectual disability, mental illness or cognitive impairment, are a minor, or are homeless.
If you disagree with the findings of the review, you can elect to take the matter to court, in which case you will be given an initial court date during which you can either seek to have your case listed for a defended hearing, or enter a guilty plea and request leniency such as a section 10 dismissal.
However, you should be aware that the maximum penalties applicable in court may be a lot higher than the fine you were issued, and you may even be liable for the other side’s costs if you lose and, in the case of a criminal infringement notice, a conviction being entered in your criminal record.
It should be noted that a criminal conviction will not be recorded against your name through being issued with a fine; only a court can give you a criminal record.
Unable to pay?
If you are experiencing financial hardship, there may be an option to pay off the fine by instalments.
You may be able to pay by instalments if you:
- Receive a government benefit;
- Can pay the full amount within three months;
- Need longer than three months to pay;
- Are already paying off other fines.
It’s important to request to pay in instalments as soon as possible to avoid extra fees.
Going to court over a fine?
If you have elected to take a fine to court, or if you would like advice as to whether you should challenge the fine, and how to do so, call our experienced defence lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a conference at one of our many offices, over the phone, or by Skype or Facetime.
Jarryd Bartle practised as a criminal defence lawyer before moving on to specialist consultancy. He has written for several publications including The Guardian, VICE and The Conversation, covering a range of criminal justice-related topics.