A fine is a financial penalty for breaking the law. The Fines Act 1996 (NSW) and the Fines Regulation 2010 (NSW) sets out the rules about fines.

You can view the Fines Act 1996 (NSW) and the Fines Regulation (NSW) 2010 online at the NSW Legislation website.

There are three types of fines:

  • Court fine
  • Order for restitution
  • Fines notice (used to referred to as penalty notices).
Court fine

If you are found guilty of an offence in court, one of the things the court can do is give you a fine. In addition to a fine, courts may impose a victim’s support levy (VSL), court costs levy (CCL) and make an order that you pay witness expenses. These are treated as fines when referred to Revenue NSW.

Order for restitution

Unlike criminal proceedings, the restitution process is a civil process, where legal action is initiated against you to pay an amount to a victim of a crime that you were convicted of. The order for restitution could cover a financial support payment or a recognition payment to the victim. 

When you receive a letter from Victims Services about an order for restitution, you have the option to set up a payment plan to pay off the debt with Revenue NSW. If you are eligible, you can then arrange a Work and Development Order to clear the fine and stop the payment plan.

If you don’t deal with your order for restitution, it is treated the same as a court fine when enforced by Revenue NSW.

To find out more about your options if you get a VRO, see Restitution by offenders on the NSW Government's Victims Services website.

Fine notice

A fine notice can be issued for a lot of different offences, like for travelling on public transport without a ticket or concession card,  for parking longer than permitted time or in an unauthorised zone, speeding, for riding a bike without a helmet, for driving an unregistered vehicle or driving without a current driver licence.

A fine notice can be handed to you directly, left on the vehicle or sent by post or email. They must be given by an authorised officer such as a police officer or public transport ticket inspector.

There are separate sections in this book for fine notices. See Factsheet 2 for fine notices and Factsheet 3 for court fines, because even though there are a lot of things that are the same for both, there are also some important differences – so you need to start off knowing which type of fine you’ve been given.

The Commissioner of Fines Administration uses the name “Revenue NSW” in the administration of its functions under the Fines Act 1996. The role of Revenue NSW is to receive and process fines issued by various government agencies and authorities, and to follow up overdue fines notices and take action against people who don’t pay their fines.

For the purposes of this resource we will refer to the agency which deals with fine recovery as Revenue NSW.

Note: Commonwealth, interstate and territory fines can also be enforced in NSW by Revenue NSW.

Did you know there are organisations that can help you sort your fines out?

These organisations are known as ‘advocates’ and Revenue NSW has a specialist Advocacy Support Team that helps these organisations help you!

The Revenue NSW team, and the advocates they support, work with clients such as:

  • people with a mental health impairment, cognitive impairment or intellectual disability,
  • people who are homeless,
  • people with a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or volatile substances,
  • people with NSW Trustee and Guardian financial management orders,
  • prisoners and people recently released from custody,
  • people in serious financial, medical or domestic hardship,
  • young people (under 18 years), and
  • First Nations people.

The Revenue NSW Advocacy Support Team works closely with advocates to ensure their clients are aware of, and have access to, all the options available to help them deal with their fines. They can help you organise a way to pay off your fines by instalments at an affordable rate, access a Work and Development Order or, depending on your circumstances, apply for the fines to be postponed, reduced or written off.

If you need help with fines, contact an advocate. Ask them if they are registered with the Revenue NSW priority advocacy hotline service.

Do they have to give me a fine? What is a caution?

The Department of Communities and Justice have guidelines under the Fines Act 1996 for authorised officers (except NSW Police). These guidelines mean the authorised officer, like a transit officer, may in certain circumstances issue a caution instead of a penalty notice. Circumstances that they can take into account include:

  • the offence involved no risk to public safety, damage to property or financial loss, or did not have a significant impact on other members of the public,
  • the person is homeless,
  • the person has a mental illness or intellectual disability,
  • the person is a child (under 18),
  • the person has a special infirmity or is in very poor physical health,
  • the offending behaviour is at the lower end of the seriousness scale for that offence,
  • the person is co-operative and/or complies with a request to stop the offending conduct, and
  • it is otherwise reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, to give the person a caution.

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