Nobody likes getting a fine, even if it's unfortunately deserved. We all make mistakes, and from time to time we might exceed the speed limit or park our car in the wrong spot and face a hefty bill for our misdeed.
Fines are designed as a punishment and a deterrent, the idea being that once bitten by a large financial penalty, you'll be more compliant with the rules in the future. However, sometimes paying that bill can leave you really strapped for cash, and you may be looking for any way out.
If you really can't afford to pay the bill, and you can prove that you don't have the cash available, writing a letter of hardship can bolster your case for leniency in the payment of outstanding fines.
Gather Your Documents
To make a strong case, you'll need all your paperwork organized, including bank statements, rental agreements, your most recent income tax return, pay stubs and any collection letters or documentation. Make copies of these important documents so you have a copy for your claim and one for your own records.
Find the Correct Address
On the notice of payment required, you'll find a correspondence address to which you can direct your letter and accompanying documents. If you can't find an address, call the contact phone number and ask to whom you should direct your inquiry. It is also helpful to try and find out the name of the person who deals with these matters rather than just addressing your claim to a general department.
Keep it Formal
Make sure your letter is business formal, with the correct date and your own address clearly displayed in line with the left margin. If you are addressing the judge, use the title "Honorable." Remember to include the case or ticket number that is printed on your fine documentation. Clearly state that you are requesting leniency due to financial hardship and list the documents you are including. Be polite and professional as you would in a business letter.
State Your Case
Explain in detail why you received the notice and why you cannot afford to pay the fine. List your responsibilities and debts and politely ask for a special consideration of leniency. You may be more likely to have your request accepted if you offer to pay a portion of the fine or if you suggest a payment timeline in installments. Make sure you include your contact details and supporting documents. Ask the post office for a receipt of confirmation and send the whole package by certified mail.
Fiona Tapp is a freelance writer and educator. Her work has been featured on The Washington Post, HuffPost, The Toronto Star, Brit+Co, and others. She writes about a variety of topics including Homes, Parenting, Education, and Travel. Fiona is a former teacher and masters degree holder.