What You Need To Know
Firstly, what is a court fine?
If you have been convicted of a criminal offence your case will most likely be heard at a Magistrates’ Court.
No matter what the crime, each and every criminal case starts out at this type of court and most of the crimes dealt with here are known as ‘summary offences’. At a Magistrates’ Court your case will normally be heard by a bench of either two or three magistrates or a judge, but there won’t be any jury at the hearing.
There are four major types of sentencing that the judge can carry out. These are the:
- Custodial sentence
- Community sentence (e.g. unpaid work or a course of rehabilitation)
- Fines and compensation
- Discharge: the appearance at court is believed to be deterrent enough from future crime
At the moment, we’re interested in the sentence of a fine (which is most commonly passed by a judge) and most importantly: missed court fine payments.
The amount of a fine may be set at an initial hearing or be levied as a fixed penalty notice (where the level of the fine is pre-set). Fines are given in relation to such summary offences as:
- Convicted of an offence
- Unpaid TFL fares
- Unpaid TV Licence
- Unpaid council tax
- Driving offences (such as speeding)
The court uses statutory guidelines to determine how much a fine will be.
For your hearing you need to make sure the judge has all the information about your financial wherewithal. This may affect the amount of the fine you are ordered to pay. You may even be given time to pay the court fine in instalments.
Here are just some of the clauses of assessment the court uses in order to consider the seriousness of the offence (and thus the amount of the fine):
- Which sentencing thresholds have been crossed
- The offender’s culpability in committing the offence
- The effect of aggravating and mitigating factors
- A reduction of the sentence for a guilty plea
- The need for ancillary orders, including compensation
You may be able to dispute a fine if you think you do not owe the fine or you can challenge the amount of the fine if you think it is too high. If you missed court fine payment then it important you speak to us to prevent further action.
If you are considering either of these routes you should contact Leslie Franks for advice at the earliest opportunity.
Get in touch with us if you want to consider disputing a fine.
How do you pay it?
Once you have been convicted the judge will sentence you with a fine and order it to be paid.
Luckily, this isn’t the dark ages… a judge wont issue someone on a low income or on benefits with an order to pay £5,000 before the end of the day.
The ability of the convicted to pay is taken into account when both the amount of the fine and the length of time it requires to be paid are being considered. That’s why it’s important to state your financial situation… because it may help your case!
The set procedure for collecting fines offers various opportunities for you to agree a repayment plan with the court and to voice any concerns you may have about payments.
- The judge sentences you to be fined
- The court makes a collection order detailing how the fine is to be paid
- The details are sent to you after the case is closed
- You are offered the chance to pay in instalments or you may be ordered to pay an amount within 10 days. The order will also include details of how to pay.
If it’s easier for you, you can pay your court fine through the GOV.UK website.
If you agree with the fine: but have a valid reason for not being able to pay in full then a more suitable way to pay will be offered. However, in a situation such as this is you MUST contact the fines officer at the issuing court to discuss your case before the first payment is due.
If you disagree with the fine: you will have to dispute the case, which will require the help of a lawyer. If you consider the fine to be unlawful it may be worth your while contacting Leslie Franks.
With being a highly successful company of criminal defence solicitors, we are hot-wired to resolve such situations. Our advice is free and impartial and if you so wish you can be represented in court by one of our fully-qualified solicitors.
Missed court fine payment
Paying court fines in installments is often preferred to paying a lump sum.
As far as the court is concerned, a preferred option of payment is an electronic bank transfer (or as we have shown, GOV.UK). Doing so eliminates the danger of you forgetting to pay an instalment on the due date…
If you do miss a payment and have not previously contacted the fines officer you could land yourself in hot water.
The first thing you will be asked after you miss your payment is ‘why’? In truth, there could be a number of reasons, such as being on holiday when the fine instalment is due, suffering an illness, lack of money or a deliberate refusal to pay.
But you’ll more than likely be reminded that a court fine is a priority debt and that none of these reasons is valid.
In fact, if you don’t pay your fine on time for whatever reason, you will be regarded as being in breach of the court order.
When this happens, the court will send a statutory notice (called Further Steps Notice) which requests you bring the account up to date within a number of days. It will also ask you to make contact to enable you to explain why you haven’t paid.
Unpaid court fines warrant
If you still don’t pay and don’t make contact, a Distress Warrant will be issued which is a way for the judge to enforce the payment of a fine. This issue results in one or more of the following:
- An enforcement order to take money directly from your wages or benefits
- The issue of a Warrant of Control to an out-sourced bailiff company
- The registration of the fine (adding the fine to your credit history for five years)
- An order to clamp your vehicle with a view to the court selling it
If you still refuse to pay the fine and have not begun to arrange a dispute, the court will use its powers to punish you further for the non-payment.
In the most serious cases of non-payment and after every avenue is exhausted, the judge can send you to prison. However, this will come after at least one further hearing when you will be given an opportunity to more fully explain your reasons.
To avoid a prison sentence you must try to convince the judge that you have a genuine reason for the missed court fine payment. Not wanting to pay isn’t a reason but some of the following can lend credence to your claim of hardship:
- The breakdown of a relationship
- The death of a close relative
- The birth of your child
- Serious illness
- Other reasons for a drop in income
This is why it is important to take a detailed personal budget to court and not be worried to tell the judge about any other debts.
How can Leslie Franks help me?
If you think you will struggle to pay a court fine, don’t bury your head in the sand. You must contact the court’s fines officer to explain your situation (the judge will look favourably on you for doing so).
What happens if you don’t pay your court costs? The consequences of not doing so are serious and can lead to imprisonment.
If you’ve received a court summons for failing to pay a fine then our team of fully-qualified solicitors can help.
Leslie Franks is a highly successful company of criminal defence solicitors. Each member of the team is experienced in matters such as these which need careful and meticulous work to achieve a resolution.
Our advice is free and impartial and if you so wish you can be represented in court by one of our fully-qualified solicitors.
Our services to you include:
- Presenting a court case with a view to cancelling a fine
- Organising and presenting a budget to the court
- Making a plea for a fine to be suspended
- Defending the non-payment of a fine
If you have been served with an order to revisit the Magistrates’ court for a missed court fine payment we can represent you and present a rock-solid case for either a delay in payment or even an over-turning of the fine.
A solicitor by your side can make all the difference!
Defending the late payment of a court fine is usually a straightforward matter that can be resolved by careful and tactful negotiation with the court.
On the other hand, if you believe that the fine is unjust we can look into the case in more detail and advise you on whether we consider there to be grounds to lodge an appeal.
Should there be sufficient grounds, Leslie Franks can help you to raise an objection with the court and if necessary will apply for legal aid for an appeal on your behalf.
If you are less than 18 years of age or in receipt of benefits or your household disposable monthly income is less than £733 (2018) you’ll probably be eligible for legal aid. But you will miss out on legal aid if you have capital savings of over £8,000 (capital savings = assets, money in the bank, etc.).
Whether or not you are eligible for legal aid, contact us to discuss your case to find out how we will be able to help you.