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.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Your Right to a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Singapore
  2. What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
  3. How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
  4. What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
  5. What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
  6. Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
  7. Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
  8. Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
  9. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  10. Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  11. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  12. Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
  13. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  14. "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
  15. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  16. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  17. Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
  18. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  19. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  20. Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
Bail
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
Prosecution
  1. What is Private Prosecution?
  2. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  3. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  4. Composition Offers and Fines for Criminal Offences in Singapore
  5. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
During Criminal Proceedings
  1. Making Objections at Trial in the Singapore Courts
  2. When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
  3. Burden of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases in Singapore
  4. Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
  5. What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
  6. Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
  7. Death of a Party in a Legal Case in Singapore: What Happens?
  8. The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
  9. How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
  10. TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
  11. Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
  12. When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
  13. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  14. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  15. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  16. The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
  17. Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
  18. Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
After Criminal Proceedings
  1. Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
  2. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  3. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  4. Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
  5. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  6. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  7. Criminal Records in Singapore
  8. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  9. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
Types of Sentences After Committing an Offence
  1. Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
  2. How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  3. Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
  4. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  5. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  6. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
  7. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  8. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  9. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  10. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
  11. Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
Being a Victim
  1. Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
  2. Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
  3. Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
  4. Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
  5. Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  6. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
Offences Against the Human Body
  1. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  2. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore (and Penalties)
  3. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  4. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
Sexual Offences
  1. Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
  2. Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
  3. Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
  4. Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
  5. How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
  6. Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
  7. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  8. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  9. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  10. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  11. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  12. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  13. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  14. Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
  15. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
  2. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
  3. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  4. Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
  5. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  6. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
  7. Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
  8. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  9. Gambling Legally (at Home, in Public or Online) in Singapore
  10. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
Property Offences
  1. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  2. Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  3. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  4. Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
  5. Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
  6. Penalties for Littering and Killer Litter Offences in Singapore
Cybercrime
  1. What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
  2. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
  3. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  4. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  5. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
  2. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
  3. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  4. Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
  5. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
  6. Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
Road Offences
  1. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  2. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  3. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  4. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
  6. Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
  7. Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  8. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
Animal-Related Offences
  1. Taxidermy of Animals in Singapore: Is It Legal?
  2. Legal and Illegal Pets in Singapore (HDB/Private Property)
  3. Is It Illegal to Feed Stray Animals in Singapore?
  4. Singapore Animal Abuse Offences, Penalties & How to Report
Offences Relating to Public Peace and Good Order
  1. Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
  2. Causing a Public Nuisance in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  3. Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties
  4. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
  5. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  6. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  7. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
  8. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
Gang and Riot-related Offences
  1. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  2. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  3. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
Marriage-Related Offences
  1. Bigamy: Is It Legal to Marry a Married Person in Singapore?
  2. Marriage Offences in Singapore Involving Minors, Same-Sex, Etc.
  3. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
  2. Here are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore
  3. Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
  4. Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
  5. Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
  6. Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
  7. Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
  8. Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
  9. What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
  10. What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
  11. Modification of Cars, Motorcycles, Etc: Is It Legal in Singapore?
  12. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  13. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore