Fines and infringement fees 

What's the difference between a fine and an infringement?

A fine is imposed by the Court whereas an infringement fee is imposed directly by a prosecuting authority (eg, the Police or a local body).

You can be fined by the Court as a penalty for a criminal offence (e.g. for drink-driving, theft, or vandalism).

An infringement is money you have to pay for breaking the rules e.g. the Police can give you an infringement notice (a ticket) for speeding, and the city council can give you an infringement notice (a ticket) for parking in the wrong place or for too long.

If you don't pay an infringement fee in time, it gets sent to the Court for collection and becomes a fine.

You can read our Parking fines and infringements page for information about parking-related penalties.

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What happens in the infringement/fines process?

There are two stages:

The infringement stage 

  1. The Police, the council, or other authority issues a Notice of Infringement for an offence
  2. The Notice of Infringement will tell you how to pay the infringement fee and the due date for the payment, as well as how to dispute the infringement.
  3. If you have not paid the infringement fee within 28 days of the Notice of Infringement, you will receive a Reminder Notice. 
  4. Depending on the authority, you may receive up to three reminder notices
  5. If you have not paid within 28 days of the final Reminder Notice, they will send the infringement to Court and it becomes a fine. 

The Court stage

  1. If the fine is from an unpaid infringement, a court fee (of around $30) is added to the amount
  2. The Court will send you a Notice of Fine saying that you have 28 days to pay your fine
  3. If the fine is unpaid after 28 days, they will contact you by phone to try to arrange payment.
  4. If you have not paid your fine at the end of the 28 day period the Court will add a late payment fee to your fine amount, of around $100. They will also be entitled to take action to get the money (e.g. deductions from your wages) if you do not pay.

If you’ve been fined (or ordered to pay reparations) as a result of breaking the law, the Court can hold you for up to two hours while you complete a Declaration of Financial Capacity. If they determine that you can afford to do so, they can order you to pay the fine (or reparation) immediately.

More about the fines enforcement process is on the govt.nz website.

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Where and how can I pay a fine or infringement?

If you have a Notice of Infringement, it will clearly state how you can pay and the amount you have to pay. This information will also be on the Reminder Notice.

If you have a Notice of Fine from the Court, you can pay it:

You can also pay your fine from overseas.

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What can I do if I can’t afford to pay?

If you can’t afford to pay your infringement fee, you should contact the authority that gave you the infringement notice to arrange another option with them, such as paying in instalments from your wages. 

If you can't afford to pay a fine you can also ask for more time to pay the fine, or for permission to pay by instalments. If you do this, the court may ask you for details about your income, assets and spending. Call 0800 4 FINES (0800 434 637) or visit your local District Court Collections Office.

More information about help with paying your fine is on the Ministry of Justice website.

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What will happen if I don't pay?

If you don’t pay your infringement fee within 28 days of receiving the final Reminder Notice it will be sent to the Court and become a fine, and a court fee will be added to it.

If you don't pay your fine, the Court will charge you an enforcement fee (around $100) and take action to recover the fine.

The Court is responsible for collecting fines, and has the power to:

  • take money from your pay or benefit (with an 'attachment order') 
  • order a Collections Officer to seize your property (including jointly-owned property) 
  • suspend your driver licence
  • have your car clamped
  • ask your bank to deduct money from your account (with a 'deduction notice') 
  • give the details of your unpaid fine to credit-reporting companies, when someone requests a credit check on you 
  • stop you from travelling overseas
  • have you arrested and brought before a judge or community magistrate.

More information on how the court can enforce a fine is on the Ministry of Justice website.

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Is it true that you can get your fines wiped in exchange for doing home detention?

Not exactly. Home detention can be given as an alternative to imprisonment, where the offender would have otherwise received a sentence of two years or less.
 
In the case of unpaid fines, a judge will consider giving you a prison sentence or a home detention sentence only if all other enforcement measures have been unsuccessful, and they believe you can pay the fine but are choosing not to. More about this is on the Corrections website.

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How do I dispute an infringement?

If you don't agree with an infringement notice you have been given, you need to dispute it before the matter gets to Court. You can do this by contacting the authority that has given you the notice before the due date of your fee.

The way that you dispute an infringement notice will vary from place to place and will also depend on what the notice was for. Basically, if you don't agree with an infringement notice and believe you should not have to pay, contact the local authority and explain to them why you should not have to pay the infringement costs.

If you want advice on how to do this, consult your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for assistance.

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How do I dispute a fine?

It depends on whether you are disputing a court-imposed fine (e.g. as a penalty for a criminal offence) or an infringement fine (i.e. where an unpaid infringement fee has gone to court and become a fine).

Challenging an infringement fine
If you don't pay your infringement fee in time it goes to Court and becomes a fine. By this stage it is generally too late to dispute it however there are some grounds on which you can have the infringement returned to the prosecuting authority for dispute.

Some of these are listed below: 

  • You are not the person named on the infringement (e.g. you weren’t the person driving the vehicle at the time)
  • You did not receive one of the notices e.g. infringement reminder notice
  • You have been told no action would be taken as long as you fixed the problem (e.g. updating your vehicle registration)
  • You wrote to the authority and did not receive a response
  • You can prove that you paid the infringement fee to the authority which originally issued the infringement notice

To apply under one of these grounds you need to complete a Form 78B application (available at any District Court) and provide proof to support your application.

Your application and supporting documents can be: 

  • handed in to the nearest District Court, 
  • posted to the Ministry of Justice - Dispute Fine, DX SX10099, or 
  • scanned and emailed to the Ministry of Justice.

You can’t dispute the fine on the grounds that you did not receive a reminder notice if:

  • the original notice was delivered in person 
  • your infringement was in relation to vehicle registration, and you (as the registered owner of the vehicle at the time) had not kept your vehicle licensing and registration up to date 
  • you have previously succeeded in an application to have the fine withdrawn on the grounds of “non-receipt of reminder notice” for the same offence.

If your application is granted, you must then dispute the infringement with the original authority. If you don't do this, your infringement will come back to the Court for collection, with a court charge added to the amount of the fine.

Challenging a Court-imposed fine (e.g. for committing an offence)
You have 28 days from the day you received your fine in Court to appeal (challenge) the fine. Depending on your situation, you may also be able to ask for a rehearing of your case.

To apply for an appeal, you can write to the Court or complete the appropriate form (available at any District Court).

More information about disputing a fine is on the Ministry of Justice website.

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I changed addresses months ago and never received any notices about the infringement. What can I do now that I am liable for a fine that is much bigger than the original infringement fee? 

Your fine has grown because a court fee was added when the unpaid infringement fee became a fine, and a further enforcement fee was added when the fine was not paid within the deadline (see What happens in the fines process?).

If you did not receive any infringement notices, you can dispute the fine on the grounds that you had changed addresses and did not receive them (see How do I dispute a fine or infringement?). If you succeed, then the fine would go back to the prosecuting authority (minus the court fee), and you would have the opportunity to dispute the infringement with them.

If you received at least one of the infringement notices, then you can't argue that you didn't know about the infringement (see What happens in the fines process?) so you would not have grounds to dispute the fine.

If you do not pay the fine, the Court will take enforcement action, and add enforcement costs to the amount you owe. See What happens if I don’t pay my fine? for more information about non-payment of fines.

If you think you will have problems with paying the fine, you can ask for an extension or for permission to pay in instalments (see What can I do if I can’t afford to pay?).

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How do I check whether I have any unpaid fines?

If you aren’t sure whether you have an unpaid fine, you can apply online  to the Ministry of Justice’s Collections Unit to have a check done. You’ll get an emailed reply within two or three days. Be aware that you can’t use this service to check whether someone else has any fines – you can only use it to check your own.