When you’re slapped with a fine — whether for traffic or some other misdeed — the main purpose of the fine is to deter you from engaging in the behavior again. If the penalty is too costly and you just can’t swing it, one option is to write a letter of hardship, asking for leniency in the payment of fines. You’ll have to prove your case in the letter — making it clear why you need mercy from the court — or you may end up paying the total fine anyway.
Gather financial documents together that prove your hardship so you can make copies of them to enclose with the letter. Suggested documents include copies of your most recent income tax return, pay stubs, bank statements and any collection letters or documentation.
Find out where you should direct the letter. Check your paperwork connected with the fine for an inquiry address. If you cannot find an inquiry address, call the contact number to get the address as well as the contact person to whom you should address the letter — this may be the judge or it could be a clerk. If you’re using the judge’s name, preface it with the word “Honorable.”
Create the letter as a business letter with the current date at the top, flush with the left margin. Skip one line and enter your complete address as the return address, again flush with the left margin. Skip one line and enter the contact person’s name (if you have it) and the inquiry address for the court. Skip another line.
Enter the subject for the letter, such as the fine number: “Re: HRO-57483 Request for Hardship Leniency.” Skip another line.
Begin the letter with the reason you are writing. For example, you might write, “I received this fine on February 3 (of the current year) for parking in a loading zone. I am writing to request leniency due to financial hardship.”
Describe your financial situation in the next paragraph with careful facts and details to support the hardship you are claiming. For example, if you have some bills in arrears or you have forbearance agreements for your mortgage or other loans, describe these situations. If you have other bills that are in collection, mention this also.
Ask for leniency in the final paragraph, detailing exactly what you would like the court to do. For example, you might write, “I ask the court for hardship leniency due to my financial situation. I am prepared to pay half of the fine in three installments, if this would be acceptable.” Another possible solution might be to offer to perform community service instead of paying any fine.
Skip one line and close the letter with “Sincerely.” Skip four lines and enter your full name, flush with the left margin. Place your telephone number immediately under your name. Place your email address immediately under your telephone number. Skip another line and make a list of all document copies you are enclosing with the letter.
Sign the letter and make a copy to keep for your records. Enclose the copies of your documents with the letter and address the envelope to the court.
Mail the letter certified mail with a return receipt requested.
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