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Fines and Penalty Notices  

Fines are something most of us are aware of in relation to traffic offences. However, fines can also be issued by the courts in Australia in addition to the police for a range of criminal offences.   They are normally only issued for traffic and less serious criminal offences but can also accompany more serious penalties like imprisonment for more serious offences.  

What is a fine?  

Fines are one of the less serious penalties awarded by the police and courts.   They are normally a monitory value that has to be paid to the State Debt Recovery Office (SDR) and are imposed by way of Penalty Notice or by a judge or magistrate.  The amount that is find varies greatly depending on the offence.   

Fines can be issued as standalone penalties or they can also accompany other penalties including imprisonment for those more serious charges.  

Does a fine mean a conviction and/or criminal record? 

When a person is issued with a fine by the courts, they are convicted of a criminal offence. It will, therefore, be added to your criminal record.  

What is a Penalty Unit? 

Courts impose fines in the form of penalty units.  A penalty unit is defined in section 17 of the Crimes (Sentencing and Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW).   It is an amount of money used to calculate the total monitory penalty for some criminal offences.    

NSW legislation refers to “Penalty Units” rather than their current monitory amount.  

In NSW, one penalty unit is currently worth $110.  That means, if you are fined, for example, 10 penalty units, this would equate to a fine amount of $1,1000.    The value differs state by state.   Any change to this value would need to go through parliament to be made. 

While the maximum penalties for offences are normally set out in individual law in NSW, the penalty is ‘at large’ for common law or by indictment.   This means there is no maximum amount that can be fined.   

Why are Penalty Units rather than monitory value for fines? 

The Act refers to fine values as Penalty Units rather than the amount of money they relate to.  By doing so, legislators can easily adjust the value of fines, keeping up with the rate of inflation or to accommodate changes in public policy, without having to update every piece of legislation with new fine values whenever there is a change.    

What offences attract fines? 

The most common offences that fines are imposed for are; 

What if I can’t pay my fine?   

In imposing a fine the court will consider your financial circumstances and what the appropriate fine is in your case. If you are under financial duress, on the pension or other social security the court should impose a lesser fine than it would on someone with a high disposable income. 

You will have 28 days to pay your fine. If you are having difficulties making payment you can apply to court prior to the due date to organise payment by instalments. You can lodge an appeal either because you say you’re not guilty or because you believe the penalty is too severe within 28 days of being fined, within 3 months if the court gives you leave. 

Contact Australian Criminal Law Group 

Contact Australian Criminal Law Group for more information about fines and penalty notices 

Australian Criminal Lawyers can assist you with penalty notice matters.   Our criminal law team has the expertise to provide the best advice and get the best results for our clients across all criminal law matters.   

Australian Criminal Lawyers have offices in Sydney, Parramatta, and Blacktown but our lawyers appear in all courts across the greater Sydney area.   

Get in touch with our criminal lawyers today on (02) 8815 8167, via website enquiry or email us at 



Australian Criminal Law Group and its clients make every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information provided on its web pages. However, given the laws in NSW and Australia are continually changing, Australian Criminal Law Group make no warranties or representations as to its accuracy. 



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