FINED OUT Inner City Legal Centre Redfern Legal Centre Legal Aid New South Wales
A practical guide for people having problems with fines
A community legal education resource by Inner City Legal Centre, Redfern Legal Centre and Legal Aid NSW. 3RD EDITION

PART 3  Court fines

3.1  Overview

When courts decide how much to charge for a fine, they have to take your financial situation into account. If you believe that you won’t be able to afford to pay a fine, give the court some information about your financial position, such as a report from a financial counsellor, or your bank statements and pay slips or Centrelink documents. This will help the court understand what you can afford.

3.2  Applying for an extension of Time to Pay or to pay by instalments

A court fine has to be paid within 28 days of the court making the order. You can apply at the registry of the court to extend the time or to pay by instalments.

The registrar can require you to give them information to back up your application, especially documents about your financial situation, to help them make their decision.

The registrar’s decision is final and cannot be appealed. You can however make further applications to pay by instalments if the fine has not yet been referred to the SDRO for enforcement. If the registrar agrees that you can pay a fine by instalments and you don’t pay an instalment by the due date, the whole fine becomes payable immediately.

For more information, see the NSW Local Court fact sheet and application forms at: (

If the fine has been referred to the SDRO for enforcement then you can apply for time to pay, a Work and Development Order or one of the other options set out in Part 5.

3.3  Voluntary enforcement

If you receive a Government benefit or are eligible for a Work and Development Order and want to pay a court fine by instalments or to apply for a Work and Development Order, you can apply to have your court fine referred to the SDRO without the $50 enforcement cost. You can also choose to have your instalments deducted from your Centrelink benefit by electing Centrepay as your payment method (see Part 5.3.3).

To apply, you need to approach the registry of the local court and complete an Early Enforcement Form. The registrar may ask for information to back up your application, including documents about your financial situation. You will also need your Centrelink Reference Number.

Overview of court fine process

Overview of court fine process - Flow Chart  

Click to view a larger size of the flow chart.
(PDF format)

3.4  Contesting a court fine

If you have been convicted and fined by a court, and you disagree with the decision, there are a number of things you can do.

3.4.1  Appealing to the District Court

If you believe you are not guilty of the offence or the penalty is too harsh you can appeal the Local Court’s decision in the District Court. (The District Court is one level higher than the Local Court.)

You have a right to lodge a Notice of Appeal up to 28 days after the sentence date. You can also lodge an appeal up to 3 months from the sentence date if you get leave (permission) from the court. To get leave, lodge your Notice of Appeal and include documents that explain why you couldn’t lodge it within the 28 days. There is a fee for lodging an appeal to the District Court, but it can be waived (which means you don’t have to pay it) in cases of financial hardship.

3.4.2  Applying to the court for annulment

If you were convicted or sentenced in the Local Court less than two years ago and you weren’t there when it happened, you may be able to have the conviction or sentence annulled. This means the case will go to court again and you will have the chance to have your say.

Before you apply for an annulment you should get legal advice and think carefully about whether you are likely to end up better off if you get the annulment and the case goes to court again – you might lose the case, and end up with additional court costs.

To have the conviction annulled you must prove to the court that:

  • you were not aware of the original case until it was finished; or
  • you were unable to attend court because of accident, illness, misadventure or other causes; or
  • it is in the interests of justice to do so.

Note: Annulment does not mean you do not have to pay the fine. It just means that a court will hear the case again. You may still end up having to pay the fine.

3.4.3  Applying to the Minister for annulment

If there is doubt about your guilt or responsibility for a penalty, you can apply for an annulment to the Minister any time after the conviction or sentence date. If the Minister agrees that there is doubt, the matter will be referred back to the Local Court for review.

We suggest that you get legal advice before you file an appeal or apply for an annulment (See Part 10: Useful contacts).

3.4.4  Referral to the SDRO

If you have been given a fine in court and it has not been paid by the due date, and the registrar has not given you an extension of Time to Pay or agreed to let you pay by instalments, the fine will be referred to the SDRO for enforcement. The referral process can take up to 3 months.

Once a fine has been referred to the SDRO they will send you a fine enforcement order, which gives you 28 days from the date of the order to pay the fine plus the enforcement fee (it is $50 at the moment). If you do not pay your fine within the 28 days, the SDRO will take further enforcement action against you. It is important to remember that every time there is enforcement action costs are added to your fine.

Overview of contesting a court fine

Overview of contesting a court fine - Flow Chart  

Click to view a larger size of the flow chart.
(PDF format)


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