Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can’t Afford to Pay Them?

Last updated on April 26, 2022

man handed fine

If you’ve committed an offence in Singapore, you may be required to pay a fine. However, some fines can go up to $5,000 or even more. So what happens when you can’t afford to pay this huge sum of money?

This article will discuss:

What is a Fine?

In Singapore, a fine is a monetary penalty imposed on you for committing an offence.

Once a fine has been imposed on you, it is important that you ensure the necessary payments are made. Not paying your fines may result in a warrant of arrest being issued against you.

A warrant of arrest is a court order that is issued to law enforcement agencies to arrest an alleged offender and bring them before the courts, or to require the alleged offender to surrender himself. You may also be required to pay a heftier amount of fine or sentenced to prison in default if you fail to pay the fine imposed on you.

For example, Mr Gabriel Ravi was charged with 14 parking offences between September 2010 and January 2011. His offences would have been compounded if he had paid a fine of $10 to $50 for each offence. However, he avoided paying the fines and was eventually summoned to court. Even then, he had refused to appear in court 5 times, and thus had 5 arrest warrants issued against him.

He finally pleaded guilty to the charges in April 2015. Due to his failure to pay his fines, however, the total composition fine of $660 for his 14 parking offences had been replaced with a court fine of $7,000, which was $500 for each penalty. His appeals for a smaller fine were denied as well on the grounds that the situation could have been avoided in the first place if he had not avoided his fines in the very beginning.

Eventually, the judge granted him a 4-month instalment plan comprising a $2,000 monthly payment for the first two months and a $1,500 monthly payment for the subsequent two months.

What are the Types of Fines I Might be Liable to Pay?

Composition fines

A composition fine is a fine to be paid to compound an offence, i.e. to settle a criminal charge against you outside of court. Composition fines may be imposed for minor traffic or regulatory offences. Examples of such offences include illegal parking, exceeding the speed limit or smoking in a prohibited place. If you’ve committed such an offence, you may receive a ticket or notice with an “offer of composition”. This is an opportunity for you to pay a sum of money to settle the ticket or notice without going to court.

For committing other traffic and regulatory offences, however, you may receive a summons or notice that does not contain an offer of composition. This means that you will have to attend court, where you may be sentenced to a court fine and/or an imprisonment term if you are found guilty of the offence.

Court fines

A court fine is a monetary penalty imposed on you by a court if you have been found guilty of a criminal offence, such as theft or animal abuse, and the matter had not been compounded. When the judge orders you to pay a court fine, they will also give you a deadline to pay it, and you will be required to settle the sum by the date given.

How Do I Pay the Fine?

For composition fines, you can pay the amount stated by either NETS or credit card at any AXS kiosk near you. AXS kiosks are available island-wide. You can also pay the fine via the AXS website or through the AXS app.

For court fines, the exact payment method will depend on whether it had been the State Courts, Family Justice Courts (FJC) or Supreme Court that had issued the fine. Payments for State Courts fines can be made at the Automated Collection System (ACS) kiosk located at the Bail Centre at State Courts. Alternatively, you can make payment via NETS, credit card, cash or cheque, depending on the limit you have set with your bank.

For fines imposed by the FJC, you can make payment at the cashier counter on Level 1 of the FJC Havelock building. The modes of payment include cash, cashier’s order and NETS.

For fines imposed by the Supreme Court, you can make payment at the Legal Registry, Level 2 of the Supreme Court. The modes of payment include cash, NETS, credit card, cashier’s order or GIRO.

What to Do If I Can’t Afford to Pay a Fine?

Can I request an extension?

Yes, you can. For composition fines, you can request the relevant authority to grant you a deferral to pay your fines. The process for sending a request to defer payment of a fine may differ from agency to agency, so do ensure that you check with the relevant authority as to the right method for doing so.

For court fines, the court that had imposed the fine may choose to allow and extend the time for its payment. Therefore, if you know that you might be unable to pay the amount, you can request an extension during your court hearing.

Can I request to pay in Instalments?

Yes, you can. If you have received a composition fine, you can apply and file an application for an instalment plan for your fines to the relevant prosecuting agency.

Alternatively, for court fines, you can request the courts to allow you to pay your fines by way of instalments during your hearing.

However, be aware that the relevant authority or court has the discretion to decide whether to accept your application/request to pay your fine in instalments.

What if I am unable to pay my instalments on time?

For offers of composition on traffic fines, if you have yet to pay your fine and the ticket has expired, you can still use the Automated Traffic Offence Management System (ATOMS) to settle your ticket or notice by paying the fine. However, you have to do so by 5 pm on the court date stated in your ticket or notice.

For fines imposed by the State Courts, you may choose to vary the instalment plan for payment of the fine. This can be done via this form at least 7 days before the payment due date.

For fines imposed by FJC and the Supreme Court, you can file a request to vary your instalments via post at least 2 weeks before an instalment is due. You also have the option of emailing in your request to vary a Supreme Court fine. However, you should first seek consent from the Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) to vary an instalment plan for either an FJC or Supreme Court fine.

Do note that whenever you send an application to the relevant authority or court, you will need to include a strong reason for your application (e.g. financial difficulty or medical reasons), together with supporting documents. For FJC and Supreme Court fines, be prepared to also propose a new instalment plan for the court’s consideration.

It is up to the relevant authority or court to decide whether to accept your application to vary your instalments, and they will do so only on exceptional grounds. For court fines, the court may also require the offender to execute a bond with or without sureties on the condition that he pay the fine or the instalments, as applicable.

If your application to vary your instalment plan is unsuccessful, you will have to pay the fine on or before the payment due date.

What happens if I still can’t afford to pay the fine completely?

If you are still unable to pay the fine completely, then the whole of the fine remaining unpaid becomes due, and your instalment plan may be revoked. The court may then issue a warrant for your arrest, and you will have to serve a prison term in default of paying the fine.

Can I dispute the fine?

If you feel that you have been wrongly fined, or that you have a reasonable explanation as to why you committed the offence, you may want to attempt to appeal against the fine.

For composition fines, you can head to the relevant agency’s website to learn the appropriate method to appeal against the fine imposed on you.

For example, for fines issued by Traffic Police, you can head to this webpage to appeal against your fine. Likewise, to appeal a fine issued by the NEA, you can read the instructions as stated here to submit your appeal form.

For the fines issued by the State Courts, you need to complete and submit a copy of the Notice of Appeal and submit it to the Central Registry at level 2 of the State Courts Towers.

For fines issued in FJC, you will have to submit your Notice of Appeal within 14 days of the decision.

Finally, for fines issued in the Supreme Court, you can file an appeal using the Notice of Appeal in Form 35 under Appendix A of the Rules of Court, within 14 days after the date of the court’s judgment.

Do note that you should file an appeal against the fine only if you are able to substantiate your appeal. For example, you may include evidence to show that the imposition of the fine was unfair, or that the fine amount is unduly harsh. An experienced criminal lawyer will be able to assist you with this.

The court may reject your appeal without a hearing if you do not provide any reasons that could reasonably suggest that the court had made an error in its decision.

You should always aim to pay your fines within the due date to the best of your abilities. Even if you are unable to do so, you should not ignore the fine as it could lead to higher fines and potentially more severe legal consequences. Instead, seek methods such as paying by instalments or requesting an extension of time.

If you are still unsure about your options on paying your fines, you can contact the relevant authorities or court to learn more about what you can do. You can also contact a criminal lawyer for assistance.

A criminal lawyer would be able to advise you on your options for paying the fine or whether you should dispute the fine. He/she can also make the necessary applications for instalment payments and appeals on your behalf, and represent you in court if needed.

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