No matter the amount, court fines can quickly break the bank if you lose your job or simply don’t have the savings to cover the unexpected expense. Fortunately, most cities and regions offer assistance to those facing court fines they can’t pay. You might also qualify for loan resources when outside help falls through.
What are my options when I can’t afford court fines and fees?
If you need to pay court fines, traffic ticket or any other legal fee, your options vary depending on where you live. Start with resources that can help you cover unexpected costs.
Each province works differently, but yours may offer fee waivers to mitigate the fines you’re charged. Generally, these waivers limit or eliminate the costs associated with appearing in family, civil or small claims court. You can request a fee waiver by filling out the form provided by the ministry of the province where you live.
You could especially qualify for waivers if you’re on a fixed, low income or if you are receiving help from the government.
Financial assistance programs
Assistance programs are often available from the government or nonprofits for people who can’t afford to pay fines or basic living expenses. These programs may not help you pay court fines specifically, but they can make it easier to manage your overall budget.
What you ultimately qualify for depends largely on your income, debts and overall financial situation. Check with your regional and provincial governments to learn what you might qualify for.
Many cities and provinces have adopted community service programs called Fine Option Programs designed to help minor offenders work off fines. In most cases, the hours you work reduce your fines by a set amount — typically the minimum wage in your area. These programs can be especially helpful if you don’t have a steady income and are worried you won’t be able to pay off your fines by the due date.
Payday loans are often marketed as a solid way to pay court fines and fees.
If you owe less than $1,500 and need the cash as soon as possible, some people turn to payday loan options. If you owe more than $1,500 and have a bit more time, an installment loan may be a viable option.
To avoid an endless cycle of borrowing, build prompt repayments into your budget.
⚠️ Warning: Be cautious with payday loans
High-cost payday loans are unsustainable for borrowing over a continued period of time and are expensive as a means of longer-term borrowing. If you're experiencing financial hardship call Credit Counselling Canada for free financial counselling (Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm at +1 866-398-5999). You may also want to consider payday loan alternatives.
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Maximum borrowing costs of payday loans per province
Always refer to your contract for exact repayment amounts and costs as they may vary from our results.
||Maximum allowable cost of borrowing
|Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario & Prince Edward Island
||$15 per $100 borrowed
|Manitoba, Saskatchewan & Nova Scotia
||$17 per $100 borrowed
|Newfoundland and Labrador
||$14 per $100 borrowed
||Limit of 35% annual interest rate (AIR)
Payday loans aren’t for everybody or even every situation. If you need a longer term to pay back your loan, a personal loan might be a better solution. While many of these loans are from payday lenders, others act like traditional personal loans from banks or credit unions.
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Representative example: Frank owes $1,000.00 in fines
Frank was ordered to go to court in Toronto since he hasn’t paid any of his parking tickets in the last few years. The court orders that he pay $1,000, and not wanting to have to return to court, Frank decides he needs to pay it as soon as possible. He is heading to Florida in a few days to visit his son who owes him money, so he decides to take out a payday loan to cover his fines in the meantime.
Frank heads online to compare payday loan providers. He knows this is an expensive option, but he is absolutely certain he can pay the full amount back in 14 days since his son owes him money. He is immediately approved for a payday loan and receives the funds into his account within a couple of hours.
|Cost of fines||$1,000.00|
|Loan type||Payday loan|
|Cost of loan||$15 per $100 borrowed ($150.00)|
|Loan term||14 days|
|Total loan cost||$1,150.00|
*The information in this example, including rates, fees and terms, is provided as a representative transaction. The actual cost of the product may vary depending on the retailer, the product specs and other factors.
What will it cost to pay a court fine or fee?
The cost of your court fines vary greatly by where you live, the severity of your offense and the judge’s discretion. Expect to pay from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for the total cost of appearing in court, dealing with legal fees and, if you’re found guilty, the activity that took you into the courthouse in the first place.
The court should issue you a list of charges that often break down the specific costs.
What’s the process to pay court fines and fees?
Every court system enforces its own procedures when it comes to paying accumulated fees and fines, but it’s likely you can pay:
- Online. If the court offers online payments, you should be able to enter your personal and payment information to pay your fine. You may have to pay a processing fee.
- By phone. Some court systems allow you to pay by phone. To speed up the process, have your court-issued paperwork and payment on hand.
- By mail. If you can mail in a physical cheque, build in an extra few days for delivery and processing.
- In person. Most courthouses accept payments during office hours. Some courts accept cash, cheque or credit card, while others limit options.
Before submitting your information online or by phone, confirm that you’re on the correct website or speaking to the right department. Online, look for a URL that starts with the letters “https:” and includes an image of a padlock to the left of the search field.
Court fines and related fees can put a strain on your budget, but you can often get help to cover the costs. Fee waivers, community service programs and government assistance are just a few ways to lessen your out-of-pocket expense. If a loan is your only option, compare lenders and how they work in our comprehensive guide to payday loans.
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