In the ACT, the courts have the authority to impose financial penalties as part or all of an offender’s penalty for certain offences. The maximum amount for each specific offence is usually outlined in the relevant offence provision. The court can combine a fine with a good behaviour order or, in some cases, a sentence of imprisonment. This page deals with fines in the ACT.
Fines are imposed as a number of penalty units, the value of which is currently set at $160 for ACT criminal offences and $210 for Commonwealth criminal offences. The ACT Legislative Assembly can vary the penalty unit amount over time under the Legislation Act 2001 and it typically increases slightly every one to two years.
Court must state how fine is to be paid
Although the court is not required to inquire about an offender’s financial situation before imposing a financial penalty, it must consider any facts established by the offender regarding their financial circumstances. When imposing a fine, the court must state the amount of the fine and how it will be paid, such as through instalments at specific times.
The Victims’ Services Levy payable by the offender must also be stated on the fine order. This is an amount that the offender is required to pay into a court fund that is maintained to assist the victims of crime.
Fine must be provided to offender
The court must provide written notice of the fine order and a copy of the order to the offender as soon as possible after it is made. If the offender is under 18, the notice and order must also be given to a parent or guardian.
Maximum amount for fines
In the ACT, the maximum fine that a court can impose for an offence is the maximum amount specified for the fine in the legislation. If no maximum amount is specified, the maximum that can be imposed is $10,000 in the Supreme Court or $2,000 in the Magistrates Court.
Will I receive a conviction?
Yes. If an offender is sentenced to a fine, they will have a criminal record as a result of being convicted of the offence.
The Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005 does allow courts to impose non-conviction orders when ancillary orders are also made, such as orders for restitution, compensation, costs, forfeiture, destruction, and disqualification or suspension of a driver’s licence. However, a fine cannot be ordered when a non-conviction order is made.
Requesting “time to pay” fines
In the ACT, if you are unable to pay a fine, you or your solicitor may request “time to pay” from the magistrate or judge who imposed the fine, and they may grant up to 12 months. If you need more time, you can approach the court registry before the expiry of the given time to request a payment plan, which is usually approved.
If it remains unpaid, the court may issue an enforcement order, which can lead to license suspension and registration cancellation. The court can then resort to civil enforcement, such as property seizure, garnishee orders, and registration of a charge on any land owned by the fine defaulter. If all enforcement action has been taken and the outstanding fine is unlikely to be paid, the Magistrates Court may order imprisonment of the defaulter.
Under the Crimes (Sentence Administration) Act 2005, imprisonment is at a rate of one day for each part of $300 of the outstanding amount, up to a maximum of six months. For offenders under 18, the imprisonment period is the lesser of the period worked out at the rate of one day for each $500 or part of $500 of the outstanding fine or seven days. A community-work order may be sought to discharge the fine at the rate of $37.50 per hour of work performed.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.