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How to get a loan to pay court fines

How to cover the costs of tickets, court appearances and more.

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Court fines can quickly break the bank if you’re out of work or simply don’t have the savings to cover the unexpected expense. Fortunately, most cities and counties offer assistance to those facing court fines they can’t pay. You might also qualify for short-term loan resources when outside help falls through.

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.

Fee waivers

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

Often, assistance programs are 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.

Community service

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

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.

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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.

Bottom line

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

Will I still need to pay court costs if my case is dismissed?
You might. A judge can dismiss the charges and court fees associated with your case, but not all courthouses do. Even if your case is dismissed, you may have to pay fees for appearing in court and filing paperwork.
What happens if I don’t pay a court fine?
Contact a lawyer or legal expert to learn what to expect and how to proceed if you can’t pay your court fine. Avoiding payment could result in late fees and even jail time, depending on the offense.
When is a short-term loan a good solution?
It depends on your situation. If you’re unable to get a fee waiver or defer your payment, then a short-term loan might be a way to pay your court costs by their due date. Make sure your budget can support the repayments to avoid a debt spiral.
When will I have to pay fees for a court-appointed attorney?
It depends on your state. Some state courts charge defendants attorney fees for legal counsel, even if you choose representation by a public defender. Learn about your state’s laws if you need an attorney while dealing with a court case.

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Kellye Guinan is a freelance editor and writer, specializing in consumer lending. Her writing and analysis has been featured on Bankrate, MSN and MediaFeed. She holds degrees in anthropology and German language and literature from Middle Tennessee State University. See full bio

Kellye's expertise
Kellye has written 132 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Personal, business, student and car loans
  • Credit scores
  • Car financing
  • Debt consolidation

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2 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    LasharndeApril 23, 2019

    I wanted to know where I could get help with paying traffic tickets cause I’m trying to get back in my car so that I could have a ride to work

      johnbasanesApril 24, 2019Finder

      Hi Lasharnde,

      Thank you for reaching out to Finder.

      The page we are on offers you a way to look at lenders available in your state to assist you in taking out a loan. All you need is to indicate the state you are living in to see your options. Hope this helps!


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