No one likes fines, but the quicker we pay them the better off we’ll be. Unpaid fines can end up costing much more than the original amount. Our driver's licence could be suspended; the courts could seize our car, or even other things like our TV or computer. Not paying a fine may also have other repercussions in the long term, like stopping us from travelling overseas, getting credit or other things we want. Read on to find out what happens if we don’t pay our fines, how to pay a fine and where to go for help with paying fines.
Parking and motoring offences are some of the most common reasons to be fined. Speeding, driving a car with no registration or warrant, or breaching licence conditions can all hit us in the pocket.
If you've committed a driving offence or other crime you might also have to pay someone 'reparation' if they’ve suffered emotional harm or lost property as a result.
Councils have the power to fine people for things like parking in the wrong place or for too long, littering or failing to control a dog.
Other council fines can include breaches of local liquor bans, or local noise bylaws. These can result in a fine of up to $10,000 or the sound system being confiscated.
Library fines may seem insignificant compared to other fines – unlike many others they don’t end up in court for collection. But like all fines, it’s worth paying them in full and on time. Libraries can and do send debt collectors after people with large unpaid fines.
The worst thing we can do with fines is ignore them. Small debts snowball into big ones quickly and courts can be very unforgiving to non-payers. As annoying as getting a fine can be, we can’t afford to ignore them.
If you don't pay a fine on time, it will be ‘lodged at court for collection’. This immediately adds $30 in court costs to the fine. If you still haven't paid 28 days later, the court can take enforcement action to collect the fine (such as making compulsory deductions from your income or bank account), which adds another $102.
Find out more about how this process works on the fines.govt.nz website.
If you have overdue fines or reparation this information may show up as part of your credit reports. This could mean the difference between getting approved for credit to buy something, or being turned down when applying for a loan or an account.
The courts can order ‘compulsory deductions’ from your wages, benefit or bank account. This means they can take money out without your permission.
They can also seize and sell your property, put a wheel clamp on your car, stop you from leaving the country or have you arrested.
If you commit traffic offences in someone else’s car – like your parents’ – and don’t pay the fines, their car could be seized.
There are a few ways to pay a fine – most court and council fines can be paid online or by phone.
To pay a court-related fine, debt or reparation, either:
If it’s hard finding the extra money to pay court-related fines, call 0800 4 FINES or 0800 434 637. Paying a fine in instalments may be an option.
Get budget advice from a local financial capability service - visit the Family Services Directory.