The court can order that you pay a fine as part, or all, of your penalty for a sentence. Fines can be combined with Good Behaviour Orders, and, in some circumstances, with a sentence of imprisonment. The maximum fine available for an offence is usually contained within the specific offence provision. You can look at the maximum fines available for different offences on our offences pages.
Section 14 of the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005 gives the court power to direct offenders to pay a fine for certain offences.
In legislation, fines are expressed in terms of “penalty units“. Currently, a penalty unit for an ACT criminal offence is $160 and for a Commonwealth offence $210.
The ACT’s Legislation Act 2001 provides for the variation of the ACT’s penalty unit from time to time, as decided by the ACT Legislative Assembly.
The court is not required to inquire into an offender’s financial circumstances before making a fine order but must consider any facts established by the offender about the offender’s financial circumstances. Section 33(1)(n) of the Crimes (Sentencing) Act requires the court, in deciding how to sentence an offender, to consider the offender’s financial circumstances if relevant and known to the court.
In making a fine order, the court must state in the order the amount of the fine and how the fine is to be paid (for example, by stated instalments at stated times).
Section 25 of the Victims of Crime Act 1994 requires the amount of the Victims’ Services Levy payable by a person to be stated on a fine order and on any notice or copy of the fine order given to the person.
As soon as practicable after the court makes a fine order, the court must ensure that written notice of the order, together with a copy of the order, is given to the offender.
For an offender aged under 18, the notice and order must also be given to a parent or person with parental responsibility.
The maximum fine that a court may impose for an offence is the maximum amount fixed for the fine; or in any other case, $10,000 in the Supreme Court or $2000 in the Magistrates Court.
If a court makes a fine order, the court may, in addition to allowing time for payment of an amount under the order, direct that the offender liable to pay the amount give security, to the satisfaction of the person specified by the court (often a Registrar), with or without sureties, for payment of the amount.
The security must be given, and may be enforced, in the accordance with the Magistrates Court Act 1930.
Is a fine a conviction and will I have a criminal record?
If you are sentenced to a fine, then you have been been convicted of the offence, and it will appear on your criminal record.
The Crimes (Sentencing Act) allows for non-conviction orders to be made while still allowing the court to impose ancillary orders. These ancillary orders can include restitution, compensation, costs, forfeiture, destruction and disqualification or loss or suspension of a licence or privilege – but not a fine.
What happens if I can’t pay the fine?
In the ACT, the magistrate or judge that sets the fine is likely to ask you or your solicitor for “time to pay” and can grant up to 12 months.
However, if the timely payment of a fine becomes an issue for you, the court registry is likely to give you more time to pay the fine by placing you on a payment plan. It is important that you approach the court before the expiry of the time given by the magistrate or judge if you are seeking more time. It is our understanding that extra-time-to-pay applications are normally approved.
If you still do not pay your fine, an enforcement order can be made. Importantly, this can result in licence suspension and registration cancellation.
After that comes civil enforcement, including property seizure, garnishee orders and the registration of a charge on any land owned by the fine defaulter.
If they are not successful, a community-work order can be sought. An ACT fine can be discharged at the rate of $37.50 for each hour of work performed under the community-work order.
The Crimes (Sentence Administration) Act 2005 provides, “The Magistrates Court may … order the imprisonment of a fine defaulter if the Court is satisfied that all appropriate enforcement action has been taken to secure payment and there is no real likelihood of the outstanding fine being paid.”
The imprisonment period is at the rate of a day for each part of $300 of the outstanding fine, up to a maximum of six months.
For a person under 18, the imprisonment period is the lesser of the period worked out at the rate of 1 day for each $500, or part of $500, of the outstanding fine; and 7 days.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.