Explore loan options and other resources to help cover the costs of traffic tickets, court appearances and more.
What are my options when I can’t afford a court fine?
If you face a court fine, traffic fine or any other legal fee, your options vary depending on where you live. Start with resources that can help you cover unexpected costs.
Each county works differently, but yours may offer fee waivers to mitigate the fines you’re charged. Generally, these waivers limit the costs associated with appearing in court.
You may be able to a waiver for, say, filing court forms or receiving official copies of documents. And you could potentially qualify for waivers specifically for those with low incomes or who receive 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. Common programs that can reduce your bills include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps), Home Energy Assistance Program and Medicaid. Check with your local and state governments to learn what you might qualify for.
Many counties have recently adopted community service 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.
Short-term loans are often marketed as a solid way to pay for an unexpected expense like a court fine. But they may not be available in you state.
If you owe less than $1,000 and need the cash as soon as possible, some people turn to payday loan options. If you owe more than $1,000 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.
Bad credit personal loans
Short-term loans aren’t for everybody or even every situation. If you have poor credit and need a longer term to pay back your loan, a personal loan for borrowers with bad credit might be a better solution. While many of these loans are from short-term lenders, others act like traditional personal loans from banks or credit unions.
Compare loans you can apply for today
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. If yours doesn’t, contact a state or county representative to make sure you aren’t overcharged.
What’s the process to pay a court fine?
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. Though 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 check, build in an extra few days for delivery and processing.
- In person. Most courthouses accept payments during office hours. Some courts accept cash, check 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 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 short-term loans.
Frequently asked questions
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