Your options if you get an infringement notice

 

There are several options available if you get an infringement notice. Remember time limits apply to the options available and if you ignore an infringement notice you will get additional fees and possibly an infringement warrant. Advice is available from your local community legal centre.

Summary of options

If you receive an infringement notice, you have several choices about what to do. There are a number of stages in the infringements system, and your options change according to the stage the matter has reached. Before you decide what to do, look at all the available options to see which one best fits your particular situation. Whatever you choose to do, be aware of the time limits involved; if you wait too long, it may be too late to take the option that is best for you.

If you are unsure what to do, you can ask for help from a financial counselling service (see Financial counselling services), or from a community legal centre or Victoria Legal Aid (see Legal services that can help).

The options available to you at various stages of the infringements system process are to:

1 do nothing (not recommended);

2 pay the penalty;

3 ask the enforcement agency to review its decision to issue the notice (i.e. ask for the notice to be cancelled or withdrawn);

4 nominate another driver (for vehicle offences);

5 negotiate a payment plan (ask for more time to pay or arrange to pay in instalments);

6 dispute the penalty and take the matter to the Magistrates’ Court;

7 apply to have an enforcement order revoked (i.e. cancelled);

8 do community work instead of paying the fine;

9 from 1 July 2017, apply for a WDP (see note in Fines and infringements).

Some of these options are only available at certain stages of the infringements system process or for certain fines. Some have different results depending on when they are put into effect. For more information, see the infringements system process table.

Deciding which option to take

Before deciding which option is best for your situation, it is important to be clear about exactly how much you owe in penalties. You may also have other infringement notices outstanding that you are not aware of (e.g. if you have moved address and not received infringement notices).

You can find out how much your owe from Civic Compliance Victoria or the Infringements Court. If you request this information from either organisation, you may be asked to supply the following information:

your full name (including middle name), and any previous names you have been known by;

your date of birth;

your current address and contact phone numbers, and any previous addresses where you might have received infringement notices.

Be careful about providing your current address to staff working at the Infringements Court or Civic Compliance. This information could be given to the sheriff who may then take action against you to execute any outstanding infringement warrants (seeWhat happens if I take no action?”, for more information). If you are not comfortable providing your current address to the Infringements Court or Civic Compliance, you can offer to provide the following information and documentation to help them search for your outstanding fines:

your driver’s licence number, if you have any parking or traffic infringements;

a photocopy of identification documents;

where possible, details of where, when and what types of fines or infringement notices you may have incurred, including an “obligation number” (these numbers are written on infringement notices).

If someone else (e.g. a financial counsellor) is obtaining information for you, you must sign a form authorising that person to obtain it on your behalf.

If fines are less than 56 days old, they will not have been lodged with the Infringements Court yet, so you need to write to the relevant enforcement agency (e.g. the Department of Transport (for most public transport fines), Victoria Police, or the relevant local council) for details of unpaid fines. The relevant enforcement agency is identified on the infringement notices or penalty reminder notices.

Your options: a step-by-step summary

The following table summarises the infringement system process, and your options for dealing with your outstanding fines at each stage of the process. More information about each of the options is provided after the table.

The infringements system process

Stage

Time limit

Options and results

1  Infringement notice

(penalty set by legislation)

As specified on notice (usually 28 days but may be longer)

Pay the penalty:

payment completed on time – no further action

payment not completed – go to stage 2

Ask the agency to waive the fine:

application granted – no further action

application rejected – pay the penalty within the prescribed time or go to stage 2

Apply for an internal review (i.e. ask the agency to review their decision) on the basis of special circumstances:

application granted – no further action

application rejected – fine will be referred to open court (see Going to court” in main text)

However, under new legislation (the FR Act and FRIAA Act; see note in Fines and infringements) due to come into effect by 1 July 2017, if an application is rejected, it will not be referred to open court and the following options will be available:

pay the penalty within the prescribed time

apply to the enforcement agency for a payment plan

elect to have the matter heard in court (seeGoing to court”)

apply for a WDP (seeWork and development permits” in main text

Apply for an internal review on the basis of exceptional circumstances:

application granted – no further action

application rejected – pay the penalty within the prescribed time or go to stage 2

Ask for more time to pay or ask to pay in instalments:

application granted and payment completed on time – no further action

application rejected or payment not completed – go to stage 2

Take the matter to the Magistrates’ Court (seeGoing to court” in main text).

Do nothing – go to stage 2

Nominate another driver (motor vehicle offences):

if nomination is accepted, the agency will pursue the nominated driver

if the agency refuses the nomination, it may recommence action against you within six months of refusing the nomination – go to stage 3

Note: For some specific offences (e.g. excessive speeding of 25 km/h or greater over the speed limit) you must nominate another driver within 28 days of receiving the infringement.

Other options available by 1 July 2017 (seek legal advice about when these provisions are operational):

Ask the agency to review their decision on the basis that the person was unaware of the notice having been served and that the infringement notice was not served by a personal service:

application granted – no further action

application rejected – pay the penalty within the prescribed time or go to stage 2

Apply for an internal review based on special circumstances due to family violence:

application granted – no further action

application rejected – pay the penalty within the prescribed time or go to stage 2

Apply for a WDP (seeWork and development permits” in the main text):

application granted – no further action

application rejected – pay the penalty within the prescribed time or go to stage 2

2  Penalty reminder notice

(penalty; extra costs)

28 days

Pay the penalty and costs:

payment completed on time – no further action

payment not completed – go to stage 3

Ask the agency to waive the fine:

application granted – no further action

application rejected – either pay the penalty within the prescribed time or go to stage 3

Note: You cannot make a second request for the agency to waive the fine if a request was already rejected at stage 1.

Ask the agency to review their decision on the basis of special circumstances or other circumstances listed in stage 1:

application granted – no further action

application rejected – fine will be referred to open court (seeGoing to court” in main text)

However, under new legislation (the FR Act and FRIAA Act; see note in Fines and infringements) due to come into effect by 1 July 2017, if an application is rejected, it will not be referred to open court and the following options will be available:

pay the penalty within the prescribed time

apply to the enforcement agency for a payment plan

elect to have the matter heard in court (seeGoing to court”)

apply for a WDP (seeWork and development permits” in main text)

Note: You cannot make a second request for an internal review if a request was already rejected at stage 1.

Ask for more time to pay or ask to pay in instalments:

application granted and payment completed on time – no further action

application rejected or payment not completed – go to stage 3

Do nothing – go to stage 3

Nominate another driver:

the agency has 12 months to act against other driver

if the agency cancels the nomination, it may recommence action within six months of cancellation – go to stage 3

Take the matter to the Magistrates’ Court

Other options available by 1 July 2017 (seek legal advice about when these provisions are operational):

Apply for an internal review on the basis that the person was unaware of the notice having been served and that the infringement notice was not served by a personal service:

application granted – no further action

application rejected – pay the penalty within the prescribed time or go to stage 2

Apply for an internal review based on special circumstances due to family violence:

application granted – no further action

application rejected – pay the penalty within the prescribed time or go to stage 2

Apply for a WDP (seeWork and development permits” in the main text):

application granted – no further action

application rejected – pay the penalty within the prescribed time or go to stage 2

3  Registration with the Infringements Court – notice of enforcement order

(penalty and costs; further costs added)

28 days

Pay the penalty and all added costs:

payment completed on time – no further action

payment not completed – go to stage 4

Ask the Infringements Court for an extension of time to pay, for variation of costs and/or to pay in instalments:

application granted and payment completed on time – no further action

application rejected or payment not completed – go to stage 4

Do nothing – go to stage 4

Apply to the Infringements Court for a revocation of the enforcement order:

revocation granted and infringement notice withdrawn by agency – no further action

revocation granted but notice not withdrawn – matter referred to the Magistrates’ Court (seeGoing to court” in main text)

revocation not granted – appeal decision, lodge new application (a maximum of two applications can be lodged without the court’s leave), or go to stage 4

Apply to the Infringements Court for the revocation (cancellation) of the enforcement order on the basis of special circumstances (seeRevocation applications where you have special circumstances” in main text):

revocation granted and infringement notice withdrawn by the agency – no further action

revocation granted but notice not withdrawn – matter referred to the Magistrates’ Court (seeAn application for revocation on the grounds of special circumstances” in main text)

revocation not granted – appeal decision, lodge new application (a maximum of two applications can be lodged without the court’s leave), or go to stage 4

Other options available by 1 July 2017 (seek legal advice about when these provisions are operational):

Apply for a WDP (seeWork and development permits” in the main text):

WDP completed – no further action

WDP not completed – go to stage 4

4  Infringement warrant – notice of seizure of assets

(penalty and costs; further costs added)

7 days

Pay the penalty and all added costs:

payment completed on time – no further action

payment not completed – go to stage 5

Ask the Infringements Court for an extension of time to pay, for a variation of costs and/or to pay in instalments:

application granted and payment completed on time – no further action

application rejected or payment not completed – go to stage 5

Do nothing – go to stage 5

Apply to the Infringements Court within seven days for the revocation of the enforcement order:

revocation granted and infringement notice withdrawn by the agency – no further action

revocation granted but notice not withdrawn – matter referred to the Magistrates’ Court (seeAn application for revocation on the grounds of special circumstances” in main text)

revocation not granted – appeal decision, lodge new application (a maximum of two applications can be lodged without the court’s leave), or go to stage 5

5  Execution of warrant – infringement action

(including seizure and sale of assets, licence suspension and cancellation, wheel clamping)

Immediate

Pay the penalty and all added costs before seizure:

payment completed – no further action

Allow goods to be seized and sold by auction:

proceeds from sale enough to settle debt – no further action

if there are no assets, or the proceeds from the sale are not enough to settle the debt – go to stage 6

Other enforcement measures including:

detention, immobilisation and sale of motor vehicles

suspension of drivers’ licence and registration of motor vehicle or trailer

attachment of earning and debt orders

charges over and sale of real property

6  Arrest

Immediate or after asset sale

If eligible, agree to conditions of CWP (community work permit):

complete a CWP to settle debt

breach conditions of a CWP – go to the Magistrates’ Court (seeGoing to court” in main text)

If ineligible for, or not willing to accept a CWP, appear in the Magistrates’ Court:

sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court under section 160 of the Infringements Act (seeInfringement warrant enforcement hearings (“section 160 hearings”)” in main text).


NOTE

Some types of motor vehicle infringements (e.g. excessive speed and drink-driving offences) are classified as licence loss infringements. These carry more severe penalties, have stricter time limits than other infringements, and there are fewer options available to deal with the infringements, so it is particularly important to act quickly if you receive one of these notices. For details of procedures and time limits for traffic offences, seeInfringement notices” in Driving offences.



NOTE

Young people (under 18 years) are dealt with differently under the infringements system. Agencies issuing infringement notices can accept payment from young people. Young people can apply for a payment plan or a review of the agency’s decision. However, if an infringement is not paid by a young person, the relevant agency’s only options are to take no further action, or elect to enforce the infringement penalty by filing a charge and issuing a summons for the young person to appear in the Children’s Court. Infringement notices issued to young people cannot be registered with the Infringements Court, so the enforcement powers of an infringement warrant are not available. See The Children’s Court.


Option 1  if you get an infringement notice: do nothing

This is not recommended. The effects of taking this option become progressively more severe, depending on how far the process has progressed. At each successive stage you become liable to pay more as extra costs are added to the original penalty (seeWhat happens after an infringement notice is issued?” and “Summary of options”). Enforcement measures (including wheel clamping and licence suspension) may also be taken against you. If you do not take any action, you may have to serve time in prison.

The consequences of not taking any action about outstanding fines are described in “What happens if I take no action?”.

Enforcement orders and infringement warrants generally expire after five years (seeTime limits”). However, an expired enforcement order may be reinstated for one further five-year period. Then, another infringement warrant can be issued, meaning that enforcement action can be taken against you. For this reason, it is not recommended that you merely wait for any infringement warrants against you to expire, rather than taking action – unless you are sure that the warrant has expired for a second time.

If an infringement notice is for a speeding or drink-driving offence, doing nothing could have more serious consequences. As well as having the penalty enforced through the infringements system, you could have a conviction recorded against you and lose your licence for a set period (for more information, seeInfringement notices” in Driving offences).

Option 2  if you get an infringement notice: pay the penalty

You can pay the penalty (also known as a fine) (and any added costs) at any stage of the infringements process. However, the longer you wait to pay the penalty, the more expensive it will be. It also becomes more difficult to negotiate payment arrangements that suit your circumstances.

You can pay the penalty within the time indicated on the infringement notice, which will usually be 28 days (but check the notice). Check when this time period starts: it may run from the date the notice was issued, or from the date you received the notice at home. The notice should tell you where you can pay the penalty, and what types of payment the agency accepts (e.g. cheque, cash or EFTPOS). Make sure you get a receipt from the agency as proof of your payment. If you have paid the penalty within the time limit, no further action should be taken by the agency that issued the notice.

If you wait until the 28-day period has expired and a penalty reminder notice has been sent to you by the enforcement agency, you can still pay the penalty. However, there may be additional costs added at this stage.

You can also pay the penalty after the enforcement agency has referred the matter to the Infringements Court and a notice of enforcement has been issued.

You may still be able to pay the fine after a date has been set for hearing the matter in the Magistrates’ Court, but only if the enforcement agency agrees to accept your payment and cancel the hearing.

If you decide to pay the penalty, but don’t have enough money to pay the full amount within the time limit, seeArrange a payment plan with the enforcement agency” and “Apply to the Infringements Court for a payment order”.

Option 3  if you get an infringement notice: apply for an internal review by the enforcement agency

Overview

Under the Infringements Act, if an enforcement order has not been issued, you can ask the enforcement agency to review its decision to issue a fine. This process is intended to be a simple and accessible way to request that an impartial person within the agency reviews the fairness or validity of the decision to issue the fine. An internal review may be requested where:

the decision to issue the infringement notice was contrary to law (e.g. a parking ticket was issued when you had complied with the relevant parking regulations);

there was a mistake of identity (e.g. you were not driving the car at the time of the offence);

you have special circumstances, or exceptional circumstances that mean you should not have to pay the penalty (see below).

Note that under new legislation due to come into force by 1 July 2017 (the FR Act and the FRIAA Act; see the note in Fines and infringements), an internal review may be requested if you were unaware of the notice having been served or that the infringement notice was not served by a personal service. Applications for internal reviews based on these grounds must be made within 14 days of the applicant becoming aware of the infringement notice.

An application for an internal review can be made on more than one of the grounds listed above.

A young person (i.e. 18 years or younger) can also apply for an internal review.

Special circumstances

For the purposes of the Infringements Act, special circumstances are:

a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness or a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or a volatile substance, that results in a person being unable to:

understand that conduct constitutes an offence; and

control conduct that constitutes an offence; or

homelessness that results in a person being unable to control conduct that constitutes an offence.

Note that under new legislation due to come into force by 1 July 2017 (the FR Act and the FRIAA Act; see the note in Fines and infringements), family violence is included as a special circumstance when a person is a victim of family violence and the family violence results in the person being unable to control conduct that constitutes an offence.

What amounts to a “mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness” is not defined in the Infringements Act. According to an information paper released by the Infringements System Oversight Unit of the Department of Justice in February 2008, it includes a diagnosed intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, a diagnosed mental illness (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression).

“Homelessness” is defined in regulation 7 of the Infringements (General) Regulations 2006 (Vic). A person is homeless if they live in crisis or transitional housing, live in other accommodation provided under the Supported Accommodation Assistance Act 1994 (Cth), or have inadequate access to safe and secure housing.

Importantly, to successfully apply to have your fines cancelled because you have a mental or intellectual condition or a drug or alcohol addiction, you must show either that this condition resulted in you not understanding that the conduct was an offence, or your condition caused you to be unable to control the behaviour that led to the issue of the fine. If you are applying to have your fines cancelled because you are (or were at the time of the offence) homeless, you need to show that your homelessness resulted in you not being able to control the behaviour that led to the fine being issued.

Exceptional circumstances

While the term “exceptional circumstances” is less clearly defined, it may include factors such as poverty, old age, family violence, acute illness or language and literacy difficulties, which relate to the offence.

Special and exceptional circumstances applications

Applications on the grounds of special circumstances should be in writing. Provide some or all of the following information to support your application:

A detailed explanation of your circumstances to provide a background as to why the infringement notice (or enforcement orders) should be revoked.

Details of any mental illness or intellectual disability, or any drug or alcohol addiction, as well as details of your housing status (particularly if you are or have been homeless) that may have resulted in you being unable to understand that your conduct constituted an offence or made you unable to control the conduct. Examples of details include the nature of the condition, the status of the condition at the time of the offence, the current status of the condition, steps taken to address the condition (e.g. rehabilitative treatment) and the link between your condition and the offence.

Copies of recent reports written by relevant health, housing and other workers (e.g. a case worker, social worker, doctor, psychiatrist) that support your application. These reports should discuss the relevant special circumstances relied upon, and the way in which the relevant circumstances contributed towards the fines (or enforcement order).

If you are relying on homelessness as a special circumstance, you need to provide a letter from a case worker, or (preferably) a representative from an agency funded under the Supported Accommodation Assistance Act 1994 (Cth)).

Each report should be signed and dated within the last 12 months, although according to the Infringements System Oversight Unit (in its February 2008 information paper), older reports may be acceptable in the case of conditions that does not change much over time (e.g. an intellectual disability).

If an application for revocation is urgent, and there is insufficient time to obtain the reports, include information about the workers from whom reports will be obtained.

Details of your weekly income and expenses (e.g. accommodation, food, electricity, gas, telephone, transport, medical and miscellaneous expenses).

Other factors such as domestic violence, poverty or an inability to pay are not special circumstances in their own right. However, these factors can be referred to in an application for revocation for special circumstances where relevant (e.g. family violence might lead to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, or aggravate a pre-existing mental illness).

A lawyer, community legal centre or a financial counsellor can help you write the application (see Legal services that can help, and Financial counselling services).

Internal review process

Each internal review is conducted by an officer not involved with issuing the infringement. Reviews must be completed within 90 days of the agency receiving the application; although this can be increased by a further period of up to 35 days if the agency seeks additional information. If the agency seeks additional information and you cannot supply it within 14 days, you can request an extension of time. The agency can take additional information into account in deciding your application, even if you provide it out of time. However, the agency is not obliged to consider extra information supplied out of time, so request an extension of time if needed.

The agency then has a further 21 days to notify you of its decision, which means you should receive notice of the outcome of the review within about four months of lodging the application (or, if the agency seeks additional information, within about five months of lodging the application).

The agency may decide to cancel the fine and instead issue you with an official warning. If the agency withdraws or cancels the notice, no further action will be taken against you.

If the agency does not withdraw or cancel the notice, you need to consider the options, such as paying the fine, paying the file in instalments, obtaining an extension of time in which to pay the fine, or contesting the fine by referring the matter to court. If you choose to pay the fine, you should pay either by the due date mentioned on the agency’s notice of its decision or, if no due date is specified, you should pay within 14 days of receiving notice of the agency’s decision.

If a request for an internal review is made on the basis of special circumstances and the agency decides not to withdraw the fine, the matter will be referred to the Magistrates’ Court for hearing and determination (seeGoing to court”).

Note that after the introduction of the FR Act and FRIAA Act, if an application for an internal review is rejected, the following options are available:

pay the penalty within the prescribed time;

apply to the enforcement agency for a payment plan;

elect to have the matter heard in court (seeGoing to court”);

apply for a WDP (seeWork and development permits”).


NOTE

Currently there are inconsistencies between various enforcement agencies in their assessment of applications for internal review, particularly in cases of special circumstances.

However, as a result of new legislation (FR Act and FRIAA Act; see the note in Fines and infringements), internal review guidelines and oversight will be brought in by 1 July 2017. This includes providing one set of guidelines for enforcement agencies, monitoring internal reviews by enforcement agencies, and the power to make recommendations to enforcement agencies about internal reviews. As a result, it is hoped that the internal review process will be more consistent and transparent.


Option 4  if you get an infringement notice: nominate another driver

For some traffic and parking offences, if you are the registered owner of the vehicle but you were not in charge of it when the alleged offence took place, you can nominate another driver. You need to provide evidence; for example, the name and address of the person who was driving the vehicle, or a statement (a statutory declaration) that the vehicle was stolen.

You must nominate another driver within 28 days after receiving either a penalty reminder notice or a summons to appear in court in relation to the offence, whichever you receive first. If the agency accepts your statement, it has 12 months in which to commence court action against the other driver instead of pursuing you for the penalty.

The enforcement agency may refuse to accept your nomination. For example, if the person you nominate as the driver provides a statement that they were not the driver and the agency accepts their statement. The agency has six months to commence action against you from the date your nomination of another driver is refused.

Once an enforcement order has been issued by the Infringements Court, it is no longer possible to nominate another driver. Instead, you need to apply for revocation on the basis that you were not the driver of the vehicle. For this application to be accepted, you need to identify the person you say was driving the vehicle. As certain types of offences require nomination to take place within 28 days of the offence occurring, it is important to nominate another driver quickly.

Option 5  if you get an infringement notice: negotiate a payment plan

You may be able to enter into a payment plan either before or after an enforcement order has been issued, or after a Magistrates’ Court hearing.

Arrange a payment plan with the enforcement agency

If you do not have enough money to pay the penalty within the time limit and an enforcement order has not been issued by the Infringements Court, try negotiating with the enforcement agency to enter into a payment plan. This will give you more time to pay the penalty, or will allow you to pay in instalments (e.g. $20 per fortnight). People under the age of 18 can also apply for a payment plan at this stage.

Under the Infringements Act, if you have a Centrelink Health Care Card, a Centrelink Pensioner Concession Card, a Department of Veterans’ Affairs Concession Card, or a Gold Card, you are automatically entitled to a payment plan (although the agency still has to agree to the terms of the plan). If you do not have one of these cards, you may still apply for a payment plan and the agency will consider your circumstances (e.g. financial hardship or illness) in deciding whether to agree to such a plan.

To apply for a payment plan, write to the agency as soon as possible after you receive the infringement notice. In the letter, explain your financial circumstances, state how often you would be able to pay, and how much at a time. A financial counsellor can help you work out a payment schedule that you can afford. You may also apply for an instalment plan via telephone.

If the agency does not give you extra time to pay the penalty, you need to decide whether you will pay or contest the penalty. If you wait until an enforcement order is issued, you may be able to request a payment order from the Infringements Court instead of the enforcement agency. Remember that more costs would have been added at this time.

If the agency accepts your application, but you do not make the agreed payments (e.g. you do not pay the amount in the extended time period, or you miss one instalment because there was not enough money in your account), the agency can refer the matter to the Infringements Court for enforcement (seeOption 1 if you get an infringement notice: do nothing”). However, phone the agency to try to negotiate an alternative arrangement, such as making up the payment in the next instalment.

If the agency agrees to a payment plan and later withdraws your infringement notice, then the infringement penalty and any associated costs must be removed from your payment plan.

Apply to the Infringements Court for a payment order

If the enforcement agency refuses your application for a payment plan and an enforcement order is issued by the Infringements Court, or if you did not apply for a payment plan while the fine was still at the enforcement agency stage, you may still be able to apply to the Infringements Court for a payment order. This payment order may give you an extension of time to pay or may allow you to pay by instalments.

An application for a payment order can be made at www.fines.vic.gov.au, in person at the Infringements Court or in writing. A written application must include your full name and current address, a description of your financial circumstances, and the reason for making the application.

The Infringements Court investigates your financial circumstances (i.e. your income, expenses, payment history, and whether you are able to pay off the fine within a reasonable time) before deciding whether to make a payment order.

The Infringements Court’s decisions about whether to make payment orders are guided by the “Payment order guidelines”. This document sets out the relevant considerations and thresholds the Infringements Court factors into its decisions. For example, an applicant is not eligible for a payment order if they owe more than $10,000, or they have previously defaulted on payment orders four or more times, or there is an order in place preventing their vehicle from being registered. Similarly, where an applicant owes more than $10,000, the Infringements Court requires an up-front payment towards the balance before a person is eligible for a payment order.

However, applicants for payment orders who are ineligible under the internal guidelines, but who receive Centrelink payments, can still apply directly to the Infringements Court for a payment plan. Applicants need to demonstrate they are experiencing extreme financial hardship, and are unable to enter a payment arrangement that exceeds seven years. For more information about payment order eligibility, contact the Infringements Court.

If the Infringements Court makes a payment order, the enforcement order is “stayed” (i.e. frozen or suspended) as long as you pay by the time set out in the order or continue to make instalment payments according to the terms of the order. However, if you do not make the agreed payments, an infringement warrant can be issued or enforcement action recommenced. If you miss making any payments on time, try to negotiate with the Infringements Court to repay the amount so that the payment order is not cancelled.

When applying for a payment order, consider including a request in your application that some of the prescribed costs and fees also be waived due to any exceptional circumstances you may be experiencing (s 76(3)(c) Infringements Act). Alternatively, before or at the same time as applying for a payment order, consider also making an application for revocation (to vary the costs of the fine) if you are experiencing financial hardship (seeOption 7 if you get an infringemnt notice: apply for an enforcement order to be revoked”). Although financial hardship is not technically a ground for revocation, the infringements registrar may, on receiving such an application, reduce the amount payable by varying the costs added to the original penalty (s 67 Infringements Act). These options are worth considering as they may result in a significant reduction in the ultimate amount payable under a payment plan application. Note that the Infringements Court sometimes requires an upfront payment before granting a payment order.

If the Infringements Court refuses to allow you to pay by instalments, and you do not pay the penalty within the time limit (28 days from the issue of the enforcement order), an infringement warrant may be issued that permits a range of enforcement measures (seeWhat happens if I take no action?”) as if you had not taken any action. Seek advice promptly from a financial counsellor or lawyer if you are unable to pay (see Legal services that can help, and Financial counselling services).

Payment plans and traffic offences

For a traffic offence where demerit points are part of the penalty, if you arrange to pay by instalments (or pay the penalty in full after the time limit specified on the infringement notice) you are considered to be liable for the offence without having been found guilty in court. The demerit points are recorded against your licence. However, no conviction is recorded.

Option 6  if you get an infringement notice: dispute the penalty and take the matter to court

If you believe you should not have to pay the penalty, or should not have to pay the full amount, you may be able to elect to have the matter heard in the Magistrates’ Court (the Infringements Court does not hold hearings) and argue your case before a magistrate. You may want to take this step if, for example, you did not commit the offence, or you did not receive the infringement notice from the enforcement agency, and the relevant enforcement agency will not withdraw the notice.

When the enforcement agency sent you the infringement notice or penalty reminder notice, they may have included a form to fill out to elect to have the matter referred to the court. If not, write to the agency to request a referral.

You cannot elect to have a matter heard in the Magistrates’ Court once it has been lodged in the Infringements Court as an enforcement order. However, there are other ways fines can end up in the Magistrates’ Court after an enforcement order has been made (seeGoing to court”). It is important to seek legal advice before electing to have your fines heard in the Magistrates’ Court. This is because the penalties in Magistrates’ Court proceedings can be more severe (seeCourt penalties”).

Option 7  if you get an infringement notice: apply for an enforcement order to be revoked

Once the penalty has been registered with the Infringements Court, either you or the enforcement agency can apply to the court for revocation (cancellation) of the enforcement order. The infringements registrar may also decide to revoke the infringement on their own motion, but this is rare. Where the enforcement agency requests revocation of the order (i.e. the enforcement orders for the fines be cancelled), the Infringements Court must grant the request; where you request revocation, the court can decide not to grant the request.

How to apply for an enforcement order to be revoked

It is important to seek legal advice if you are considering this option. The procedure for applying for revocation of an enforcement order varies according to your reason for making the application:

If you did not commit the offences or had a valid reason for committing the offences, you (or your lawyer) should make an application in writing for revocation of the enforcement orders.

If there were circumstances that resulted in you being unable to understand that your conduct constituted an offence or unable to control your conduct, you may apply for revocation of the enforcement orders. The definition of special circumstances is discussed in “Apply for an internal review by the enforcement agency”.

If you did not receive or were not aware that the infringement notice had been served, you can make a written application for cancellation to the infringements registrar within 14 days of becoming aware of the infringement notice and explain why the fine should be cancelled.

These procedures are discussed below.

Revocation applications generally

Under the Infringements Act, any person against whom an enforcement order has been made may apply to the infringements registrar for revocation of the enforcement order, and the registrar may revoke the enforcement order where there are sufficient grounds for revocation.

Sufficient grounds for revocation include where the person did not commit the offence, or had a valid reason for committing the offence, or some other sufficient ground to revoke the enforcement order. The Infringements Act does not limit the grounds on which you may argue that your enforcement order should be revoked.

An application for revocation under section 65 of the Infringements Act can be made at any time until a warrant has been executed (i.e. an application can still be made if a warrant has been issued but no steps have been taken to execute the warrant, including where the sheriff has issued a seven-day notice, but has not yet taken any further enforcement action – seeWhat happens if I take no action?”, for further information).

An application under section 65 must be in writing and should set out the grounds on which revocation is sought. It does not need to be in the form of a statutory declaration. Revocation application forms are normally sent with the notice of the enforcement order from the Infringements Court.


NOTE

If you have drink-driving, drug-driving or excessive speed infringements, you are not eligible to apply for revocation of an enforcement order. While it is still possible for an enforcement agency to make an application for revocation (section 63A), this rarely happens.

If you have drink-driving, drug-driving or excessive speed infringements, you are still eligible to apply for a payment order, extension of time, or a waiver or reduction of the prescribed fees.


Revocation applications where you have special circumstances

If you have special circumstances you can apply to have an enforcement order revoked. The definition of “special circumstances” for a revocation application is the same as for an application for an internal review (seeSpecial circumstances”).

Note that the Infringements Act does not expressly provide that having special circumstances is a sufficient reason for revocation of an enforcement order. However, section 65(1)(c) contemplates that an application under section 65 may be made on behalf of a person with special circumstances. In practice, the infringements registrar does grant applications on the grounds of special circumstances.

Applications for revocation on the grounds of special circumstances should include particular information and reports (seeSpecial and exceptional circumstances applications”).


NOTE

If your first application for revocation is unsuccessful you are entitled to apply a second time. If your second application is rejected, you need to apply to the Magistrates’ Court for leave (i.e. to get their approval) to submit more applications. Include as much detail and supporting information as possible in your application(s). If possible, seek legal advice before submitting any application(s) (see Legal services that can help).



NOTE

When a medical report that is submitted with a revocation application causes the Infringements Court or an enforcement agency (particularly Victoria Police) to have concerns about your driving ability, they may notify VicRoads. If the circumstances described in your application could be seen as affecting your ability to drive, VicRoads may suspend or cancel your licence.


Revocation applications to request variation of costs

You may also apply to the Infringements Court for revocation – even if you accept the penalty and agree that there are not sufficient grounds to have it revoked – if you believe that you should not have to pay some or all of the extra costs that have been added during the infringements process and that there are sufficient grounds to vary the amount of those costs.

In certain circumstances, the infringements registrar might reject an application to revoke the enforcement order but agree to vary some of the additional fees that are attached to the fine.

This same result might also be achieved by lodging an application for a payment order, which could be lodged simultaneously with an application for revocation to vary costs (seeApply to the Infringements Court for a payment order”).

If the Infringements Court decides to vary the amount of costs you are ordered to pay, it must send you a notice setting out the new amount that you owe. You have 28 days from the date of the notice in which to pay the original penalty, plus the new amount of costs (or to apply to enter into a payment plan).

The effect of revoking an enforcement order

If an enforcement order is revoked by the Infringements Court, this does not mean you don’t have to pay the fine. It simply means that the Infringements Court has stopped its action to enforce the penalty, and referred the matter back to the enforcement agency for reconsideration. The agency then has 21 days to decide whether it wishes to:

withdraw the infringement notice and take no further action against you; or

do nothing so that the Infringements Court will refer the matter to the Magistrates’ Court.

If the enforcement agency withdraws the infringement notice, you do not have to appear in the Magistrates’ Court and do not have to pay the fine.

If the enforcement agency does not tell the Infringements Court within 21 days that it is withdrawing the infringement notice, the Infringements Court will arrange for a Magistrates’ Court hearing to decide whether you are guilty of the offence described in the infringement notice. The hearing gives you the opportunity to explain your case. If you are found guilty of the offence, the magistrate will impose a sentence (see Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Court); you may also be ordered to pay court costs. If you are found not guilty, you will not have to pay any penalty (seeGoing to court”).

If an enforcement order is revoked on the basis of special circumstances and the enforcement agency does not request non-prosecution, the matter will be referred to the Magistrates’ Court’s Special Circumstances List.

Challenging a decision to not revoke an enforcement order

If the Infringements Court refuses your application to revoke an enforcement order, or does not agree to vary the costs and fees added to the fine, you have the right to challenge this decision by writing to the Infringements Court and asking it to refer the matter to the Magistrates’ Court (s 68 Infringements Act). If you do this within 28 days the matter must be referred to the Magistrates’ Court. If the challenge is made after 28 days, but within three months of the registrar making their decision, the registrar can decide whether or not to refer the matter to the Magistrates’ Court. A challenge cannot be made later than three months after the notice refusing your application for revocation was received.

The Magistrates’ Court can then either:

refuse the challenge and refer the matter back to the Infringements Court for enforcement; or

agree to revoke the enforcement order, then proceed to a hearing.

If the Magistrates’ Court agrees to hear your matter, you need to appear in court to present information to support your application. If you do not appear, the magistrate will refer the matter back to the Infringements Court for enforcement. If you have a good reason for being unable to attend the court hearing, you need to seek legal advice about applying to the Magistrates’ Court for a re-hearing. SeeGoing to court” and “You refer to open court the infringement registrar’s refusal to revoke an enforcement order”.

Option 8  if you get an infringement notice: do community work

If the Infringements Court issues an infringements warrant against you and you are arrested because you do not have assets that can be seized and sold to pay the penalty (seeWhat happens if I take no action?”), you may be eligible for a community work permit (CWP). People with CWPs complete unpaid community work under supervision instead of being imprisoned. If you are assessed as being eligible for a CWP and agree to the terms, you will be released on a CWP for a set period. However, if the outstanding fines exceed 100 penalty units ($15,546 as at 1 July 2016 – this amount varies each year; see “A note about penalty units”) you may not be able to obtain a CWP.

If you have a physical, intellectual or mental disability that prevents you from doing the work required, you are unlikely to be considered eligible for a CWP. Other reasons why you may not be granted a CWP include having no fixed address, having a history of serious assaults or sexual offences, failing to comply with previous community correctional orders and receiving WorkSafe payments.

The conditions for a CWP can include any of the following:

complying with the supervisor’s directions;

good behaviour;

attending specified work sites (as required);

not consuming alcohol or using illicit drugs;

carrying a copy of the CWP when not being supervised;

any other conditions as required.

If you breach the CWP conditions, you are guilty of an offence, which may lead to an additional fine. Also, if you fail to comply with a CWP, you have to go to court and the magistrate may decide to cancel the CWP and give you a different sentence (see7 Infringement warrant enforcement hearings (“section 160 hearings”)”).

Under a CWP, the number of hours you are required to work is calculated at the rate of about $31.10 per hour (or 0.2 of a penalty unit) until the penalty is paid (unless the court sets a different number of hours). There is a minimum of eight hours to be worked and a maximum of 500 hours. The Infringements Act sets out deadlines for completion of hours under a CWP (e.g. you have six months to complete 125 hours). You must, therefore, have enough free time to commit to community work. You cannot be made to complete more than 20 hours of community work per week. However, you can request to work up to 40 hours per week if you can manage it and you want to work off the debt more quickly.

If you have more than one CWP, you cannot serve them concurrently (i.e. at the same time), unlike with a prison sentence. You have to serve them cumulatively (i.e. one after the other).

In some special circumstances (e.g. if you fall ill), a CWP can be suspended for a period, then resumed. You need to provide evidence of the circumstances that justify suspending a CWP.

Option 9  if you get an infringement notice: apply for a work and development permit

Work and development permits (WDPs) will be available by 1 July 2017. A WDP enables you to pay off an unpaid fine through non-monetary means, such as:

participating in community work;

completing a suitable educational course;

undergoing treatment given by an accredited health practitioner;

receiving financial counselling or other counselling;

participating in a mentoring program (if you are under 25 years of age).

You may apply for a WDP if you:

have a mental or intellectual disability, disorder or illness; or

have an addiction to drugs, alcohol or other substance; or

are experiencing homelessness; or

are experiencing acute financial hardship; or

are a victim of family violence.

When the WDP scheme comes into effect, applications for WDPs will be made through an “accredited agency” or “accredited health practitioner”. This agency or practitioner will effectively act as your supervisor for the purposes of completing the WDP. If you complete the WDP, your fines will be considered dealt with. If you are unable to complete the WDP, you will need to consider the other options listed above for dealing with the remainder of your unpaid fines.

If you are interested in this option, seek legal advice (see Legal services that can help) to find out whether the scheme has come into operation and whether you are eligible.

What happens if I take no action?

If you take no action in relation to outstanding fines they will eventually turn into infringement warrants. You will then be vulnerable to the following range of enforcement measures being taken against you. These measures are in parts 7–12 of the Infringements Act.

Detention, immobilisation and sale of vehicles

Part 7 of the Infringements Act gives the sheriff or a police officer the power to detain and immobilise a vehicle (e.g. by wheel-clamping the vehicle or towing it away) when an infringement warrant has been issued against the registered owner. This action may be taken as long as an infringement warrant has been issued, whether or not a seven-day notice has been served.

If your vehicle is detained or immobilised, you have seven days to do one of the following to ensure that your vehicle is released:

pay the outstanding penalty plus any costs incurred by the detention, immobilisation or impoundment of the vehicle;

enter into a payment order; or

request that the infringements registrar make an attachment of earnings order or an attachment of debts order (seeAttachment of earnings or debt orders”).

Your vehicle also may be released if one of the following occurs:

an application to revoke an enforcement order is granted by the infringements registrar or the Magistrates’ Court. You can lodge a revocation application after your vehicle has been detained or immobilised. Until the application has been determined, the sheriff can not take any further enforcement action (i.e. they cannot sell a vehicle that has been seized) (see s 90(2) Infringements Act);

an application against a refusal to revoke an enforcement order is granted;

sufficient property is seized to satisfy the outstanding amount;

you are arrested; or

all infringement warrants are recalled and cancelled by the infringements registrar, or they expire.

If none of the above actions or events are taken or occur, the sheriff may seize the vehicle and anything left in or on the vehicle and give you 14 days notice of their intention to sell the vehicle (or anything in or on the vehicle).

Any money left from the sale of the vehicle – after the outstanding fines are paid and the costs of detaining and selling the vehicle are covered – is paid to the vehicle’s registered owner.

Part 7 of the Infringements Act applies if one or more infringement warrants has been issued against the registered owner of a vehicle. This means that action taken to immobilise, detain or remove your vehicle can continue until all your outstanding warrants have been dealt with.

The Infringements Act specifically allows a vehicle to be sold, even when it is the owner’s primary mode of transport and is of any value (specifically excluding the operation of section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic), which would otherwise protect people from having their vehicle seized and sold).

Suspension of driver licence and vehicle registration

Under part 8 of the Infringements Act, the sheriff may direct VicRoads to suspend a driver’s licence or suspend the registration of their vehicle, whether or not the person’s infringement was a vehicle offence.

This action can only be taken if you have been issued with a seven-day notice and you do not pay the outstanding fine or have taken no other action. Even if there are multiple infringement warrants, only one seven-day notice needs to be served. The notice of intention to suspend a licence or registration must be served on you personally.

The sheriff may also direct VicRoads to not renew a driver’s licence or vehicle registration, or to not transfer a registration, whether or not a seven-day notice has been issued.

Where multiple infringement warrants have been issued against you, the sheriff can make one direction about all of them.

The sheriff cannot direct VicRoads to suspend your driver’s licence if you have applied for a payment order or for revocation of your outstanding enforcement order(s), unless and until the application is rejected.

Sanctions under part 8 may only be lifted if other action is taken to satisfy all outstanding fines, such as paying the fines in full, arranging a payment order, successfully applying to have the fines revoked, having sufficient personal property seized to cover the debt, entering into an attachment of earnings order or attachment of debts order, or if the infringement warrants expire.

Attachment of earnings or debt orders

Under parts 9 and 10 of the Infringements Act, the infringements registrar has the power to issue a summons for you to attend court and answer questions about your financial affairs. The registrar can also make an attachment of earnings order or an attachment of debt order in relation to your outstanding fines. This means that a third party who owes you wages or a debt must pay a specified amount of the wages or debt to the infringements registrar instead of to you. These powers are similar to those available under the Judgment Debt Recovery Act 1984 (Vic).

An attachment of earnings or debt order may only be made if you have been issued a seven-day notice and seven days have elapsed without you paying the outstanding amount listed in the infringement warrant, applying for a payment order, or applying for an enforcement order to be revoked. Attachment of earnings or debt orders can only be made if you owe a total of $1,000 or more from all the outstanding infringement warrants in your name.

An attachment of earnings or debt order ends when the amount owing is paid in full.

Charges over and sale of real property

Charges over real property (i.e. land) are a last resort. However, if you owe a total of $10,000 or more from all the outstanding infringement warrants in your name – and if other enforcement action has been unsuccessful, or unsatisfactory, or is not possible or is not appropriate – the sheriff may apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an order that a charge be placed over land that you own or co-own.

If the charge remains on the land for more than three months and the amount owed under the warrant is still outstanding, the sheriff may apply for an order permitting the sale of the property, after having notified you of their intention to do so.

Arrests and imprisonments

You may be arrested under an infringement warrant if you do not have enough personal property to cover the amount owed and there are no other means of dealing with the penalty. It is very important to seek legal advice before the court hearing (see Legal services that can help). Also see7 Infringement warrant enforcement hearings (“section 160 hearings”)”.