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Are you having problems with fines?

Unpaid fines are a serious problem.

All fines have a due date for payment. If you don’t pay by the due date, State Debt Recovery (SDR) will start enforcement action against you to recover the debt. SDR can:

  • suspend your drivers licence
  • cancel your car registration
  • take your property
  • take money out of your wages or bank account until the fine is paid off
  • add enforcement costs to your debt.

Losing your licence can have very serious consequences, especially if you don’t have access to public transport or need a licence for work. Getting your licence and registration sorted out so you can drive again is often quite simple, once you’ve made an arrangement with SDR. .

Types of fines

There are two types of fines: court fines and penalty notices.

Court fines are fines imposed by a court. Penalty notices are issued by an authorised officer such as a parking inspector, police officer, ranger or transit officer. Knowing the difference between these two types of fines is important when you are deciding what to do.

There are things you can do

The sooner you do something about a fine, the better. Even if you have accumulated a big fines debt over a long period, there are still things you can do to stop enforcement action and get back on track. Reducing your debt may be easier than you think and there are options available to help people experiencing hardship.

Some of these options are explained below. Further information is available in the handbook Fined Out. To order a copy, go to: www.legalaid.nsw.gov/publications.

If you are not sure what to do, you can get free legal help from the places listed on the back of this brochure.

Options before the due date for payment

  • Pay it. Pay the fine by the due date. You can make part payments, as long as you pay in full by the due date on the penalty reminder notice.
  • Voluntary enforcement. If you get government benefits or are eligible for a Work and Development Order (see next page), you can apply to have your fine voluntarily enforced by SDR without enforcement costs being added to your debt. You can then pay by instalments or apply to undertake an activity to clear your fine if you are approved for a Work and Development Order.
  • Review. If you believe a penalty notice should not have been issued to you, you can apply to SDR for the fine to be reviewed. More information on the grounds for review is available in Fined Out or on the SDR website: www.sdro.nsw.gov.au
  • Court election and appeal. You can choose to dispute a penalty notice by going to court. If you have received a court fine, you may be able to appeal to a higher court. Get legal advice first

Options after the due date for payment

  • Time to pay. You can apply to SDR to pay the fine off over time (including through Centrepay arrangements).
  • Annulment. If you were unable to deal with a fine at the time if was issued, it may be possible for the court to deal with the fine at a later date. Time limits apply. 
  • Write off. If you are experiencing serious financial, medical or personal hardship and are unable to pay your fines, you can apply to SDR to write off (cancel) your debt. Conditions apply so get advice.
  • Work and Development Order (WDO). If you have mental illness, intellectual disability, cognitive impairment or a serious addiction, or if you are homeless or experiencing acute financial hardship (including people on Centrelink), you may be able to undertake an activity to pay off your fines. Activities include unpaid work, courses, counselling, financial counselling, treatment programs or mentoring (for under 25s).

Once an arrangement has been made with SDR, enforcement action stops and driving restrictions are lifted.


It may seem overwhelming but you can always do something about it.

Fined Out (4th edition) is a free handbook that helps people deal with fines, explaining the fine enforcement process and the options available for addressing fines. It provides links to SDR forms and other publications, and has sample letters and a contacts list for more help.

You can order the handbook online from Publications, Legal Aid NSW:

This brochure is intended as a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice and it is recommended that you talk to a lawyer about your particular situation.

At the time of printing, the information shown is correct but may be subject to change.

For more information, contact LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529.

For more copies of this brochure, order online at:

www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/publications/order-a-publication and select the topic ‘Money, Debt and Fines’.

or contact the Publications Unit, Legal Aid NSW on 9219 5028.

Need help?

Legal Aid NSW

  • Go to our website www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au or phone LawAccess NSW for your nearest Legal Aid office

LawAccess NSW – 1300 888 529

Community Legal Centres

  • Free legal advice and assistance. To find your nearest centre call 9212 7333 or go to: www.clcnsw.org.au

Credit and Debt Hotline

  • 1800 808 488

Free financial counsellors

State Debt Recovery

  • Penalty notices: 1300 138 118
  • Enforcement Orders: 1300 655 805
  • Work and Development Order Hotline: 1300 478 879
  • www.sdro.nsw.gov.au

This brochure is available in Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese.

Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS).
Provides free interpreters if you do not speak English. TIS can help you talk to LawAccess NSW in your language.
Call TIS on 131 450.

National Relay Service symbolHearing/speech impaired TTY or NRS
If you are hearing/speech impaired, you can contact us on TTY 9219 5126 or through the National Relay Service (NRS) on 133 677.

August 2014