This article is for general information only and should not be relied on for specific legal advice.  The author will not be held responsible for any action that a person takes as a result of interpretation of the contents of this article.  It is important to seek specific advice from a qualified and experienced lawyer for any legal problem.   

A penalty unit is a measurement of the fine imposed for a criminal offence. The fine is calculated by multiplying the value of one penalty unit by the amount of penalty units for the criminal offence. For offences that have a punishment involving ‘Penalty Units’, the maximum number of penalty units are outlined in the offence section in the legislation.

How Much Is A Penalty Unit?

At the time of the writing of this article, one penalty unit is equal to the amount of $133.45.  So, for example, the maximum penalty for the offence of Shoplifting (UTAG Regulator Offences Act QLD where the amount of goods is under $150.00) is 6 penalty units. Therefore, the total maximum fine that a Magistrate can impose is $800.70 ($133.45 x 6). 

Please note that there is also an offenders levy attached to every criminal court proceeding.  The offenders levy in the various states and territories are: 

QLD $125.80 $377.20
NSW $118.80 $356.40
TAS $20.00 $50.00
SA $160.00 $260.00

How To Calculate A Fine With Penalty Units

You can calculate the total cost of a fine with penalty units by multiplying the value of one penalty unit by the number of penalty units for the criminal offence. 

For example, if you were a first time drink driving offender in Tasmania with a blood alcohol concentration less than 0.05 the offence will likely be between 2 and 10 penalty units. In Tasmania, one penalty unit is currently equal to $181. So, the fine will be between $362 and $1810. 

Payment Options For A Fine With Penalty Units

If you receive a fine from the court, you can pay that at the Court Registry after court.  You can speak with the court staff about organising a time to pay the fine.  Alternatively, you can have the fine referred to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER).  If you don’t do anything about the fine then it will automatically be referred to SPER.  Be aware, if your fine is referred to SPER then you will be charged with the SPER administration fee which will increase the cost that you owe.  If you can’t afford to pay your fine immediately, you can organise to enter into a payment plan through SPER. 

In Queensland, you can visit this page on paying your SPER debt by instalments for more information. If you ignore the fine and don’t respond to SPER, action can be taken against you. This can include the suspension of your driver’s licence or the recovery of your personal property in certain circumstances.   

Our Legal Team Can Help You With Criminal Charges & Penalty Units

At Brooke Winters Solicitors, we are experienced criminal lawyers who can assist you with any questions you may have in relation to penalty units. Our team can also help you with legal advice regarding criminal law, traffic law and domestic violence. We have offices on the Gold Coast, South Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Hobart but can travel to you anywhere in Australia. Contact us today for more information.