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Fines in South Australia

In South Australia, fines can be imposed by a court, or by police officers and other prescribed officers for criminal and traffic offences. When a court imposes a fine, it does so under the Sentencing Act 2017. This article deals with fines in South Australia.

What are expiation notices?

Fines that are issues by the police and transport authorities are known as expiation notices. In some situations, an expiation notice may be given instead of a summons to attend court. However, in situations where an expiation notice can be issued for an offence, the authority can still choose to issue a summons.

A notice may be:

  • handed to you personally (such as where a police officer detects an offence while on duty)
  • posted to you (for example, from a camera-detected offence)
  • attached to your vehicle (for parking offences).

Expiation notices are governed by the Expiation of Offences Act 1996.

Court fines in South Australia

The maximum fine that can be imposed by a court is set out in section 119 of the Sentencing Act.

These maximum amounts are as follows:

In the Supreme Court, $75,000

In the District Court, $35,000

In the Magistrates Court, $10,000

The maximum amount of a fine that can be imposed for a particular offence is determined by the maximum penalty for that offence. Legislation stipulates the maximum fine for an offence as a number of penalty units. The value of a penalty unit increases over time, as the value of money changes.

Paying a court fine

For all fines in South Australia imposed by a court, payment is due within 28 days. If you can’t pay it in full within that time you may enter into an arrangement with the Fines Enforcement and Recovery Unit (FERU) to:

  • pay the fine by instalments
  • extend the time to pay
  • take a charge over land
  • surrender property to the FERU
  • pay it by deductions from a bank account, wages or similar.

If you are an undischarged bankrupt or you have previously faced enforcement action, the FERU may refuse to enter into an arrangement with you or may require you to provide security or obtain guarantees.

They also have the power to waive payment of the whole or part of the fine.

Police expiation notices

If you commit a traffic offence in South Australia, you may receive a police expiation notice and have to pay a fine. This notice may be a handwritten notice from a police officer or a computer generated notice from a speed or red-light camera.

Expiation notices for camera-detected offences are sent to the vehicle’s registered owner. If they were not the driver at the time of the offence, a statutory declaration can be completed nominating the driver. If the offence is disputed, you can elect to have the matter heard in court.

You can pay the notice:

  • online at SAPOL e-pay
  • at any Service SA customer service centre
  • at your local court
  • by phone on 1800 659 538.

Expiation notices generally

For fines in South Australia which are issued in the form of expiation notices, the notice must state the offence it is alleged you have committed and set out an expiation fee (fine). You can choose to pay that amount rather than be prosecuted.

The notice must be in a particular format, must specify the authority to whom you must pay the fine, and must give you 28 days to pay. It must be issued within six months of the date of the offence and before the start of any prosecution against you for the offence.

With it, you will receive a notice that you can complete if you choose to take the matter to court. If the notice is defective it may be withdrawn and in some instances may be corrected and re-issued.

You have several options in respect of the notice, but you must act within the 28 days.

Your options are:

  • expiate the offence by paying the fine
  • apply for a review of the notice
  • elect to take the matter to court
  • enter into a payment arrangement. If you do this you can no longer elect to take the matter to court or apply for a review on the ground the notice is trifling.

Overdue fines in South Australia

If you have done nothing about a fine by the end of the payment period, you will be issued with a reminder notice. This may include further costs that are added to your fine. After a further 14 days, the fine will be referred to the FERU.

You can:

  • pay the amount owed in full
  • apply to have the enforcement determination revoked or varied
  • apply for review by the court of the enforcement determination.

Enforcement options

If you do nothing in relation to fines in South Australia, the FERU has a wide range of enforcement powers.

  • Whether or not the offence is traffic related, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles may be directed not to transact any business with you and to suspend your driver’s licence.
  • It can publish the names of registered companies or individuals who have overdue fines.
  • Your assets can be seized and sold.
  • The fine can be deducted from your wages or bank accounts (garnisheed).
  • Your motor vehicle can be clamped or impounded and may be sold.
  • If you can’t afford to pay, the fine may be converted to a Community Service Order.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 

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