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Chapter 6 Section C: Fines

You can be given a fine, which is an order to pay a penalty amount of money (usually to the government), in two main situations:

  • If you go to court for having committed a crime, you could get a fine if you are convicted (found guilty of the offence).
  • If you have committed a minor crime, such as a parking offence or less serious traffic offence or a railway offence, you could get an ‘on-the-spot’ fine in the form of an infringement or penalty notice.

If you are likely to be given a fine by a court, it is important to tell your lawyer (or the court directly if you are not represented by a lawyer) if you have little or no money to pay a fine, before the judge or magistrate makes their decision. The judge or magistrate might then reduce the amount of the fine or deal with you in another way such as by putting you on a good behaviour bond.

You cannot ‘work off’ a fine by going to prison.

If you have been given time to pay a fine by the Local Court and you cannot pay it on time, don’t just leave it and do nothing. If you have a reason why you can’t pay on time, you can ask for further time to pay. Click here for further information.

If you are homeless, or a person with mental illness or an intellectual disability or you are facing extreme economic hardship and have been given a fine you may be able to apply for a ‘Work and Development Order‘ (WDO) to ‘work off’ the fine through doing voluntary work with a community organisation, attending training or education courses, or participating in a treatment program.

The Work and Development Order (WDO) scheme was introduced by State Debt Recovery (SDR) to provide a non-monetary way for people to reduce their debts caused by non-payment of fines. WDOs are open to people who:

  • have a mental illness
  • have an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment
  • have a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or volatile substances
  • are homeless, or
  • are experiencing economic hardship

A WDO may only be made if the application is supported by an approved organisation, or in the case of mental health or medical treatment, a health practitioner qualified to provide that treatment.

Corrections NSW was approved to administer WDOs to eligible inmates in 2012. Inmates with a mental illness; an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment; a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or volatile substance; or were experiencing homelessness or acute financial hardship prior to coming in to custody may register with the scheme.

Inmates who meet one or more of these criteria are able to engage in programs to clear their fines registered with the SDRO. They can count satisfactory participation in AOD treatment, financial or other counselling and educational/vocational or life skills courses towards meeting their WDO requirements. This will be identified by the Education and Programs staff in the correctional centre.

For more about Work and Development Orders, click here.

There are also other things you can do if you can’t afford to pay a fine. Click here to find out more .

Updated August 31, 2015