Fines & Infringements | Barwon Community Legal Service
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Fines & Infringements

The content on this site is information only and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice please contact us.

I’ve been fined. What now?

Receiving an infringement notice can be a shock, especially if you’re not sure how you’ll pay. Learn more about your rights, responsibilities and options for fines and infringements.

What are fines and infringements?

A fine is the financial penalty for breaking the law. An infringement is the offence you have committed. Often, people use the terms fines and infringements to mean the same thing.

An infringement notice is the notice you receive that says:

  • What law you’ve broken
  • How much you have to pay
  • The due date of the infringement

Infringements are issued for minor breaches of the law. The idea is to issue a penalty (to discourage you from breaking the law again) while keeping the offence out of Court.

Infringements can be issued in many different circumstances, for offences including:

  • Parking offences
  • Traffic offences (for example, speeding or driving through an intersection when a traffic light is red)
  • Public space offences (for example, littering or drinking alcohol in an alcohol-free zone)
  • Public transport offences (for example, not paying the correct fare or behaving offensively)
  • Failing to vote

Victoria Police can issue infringement notices, as well as local councils, the Department of Transport Victoria, the Victorian Electoral Commission, and other bodies (also known as Enforcement Agencies).

You will find out about your fine (infringement) when you receive the infringement notice. The infringement notice can be:

  • Mailed to you; or
  • Given to you immediately; or
  • Left on your property (for example, taped to the windscreen of your car)

The notice will state:

  • The reason for the infringement
  • The law which applies to your infringement
  • The monetary amount due
  • How to pay
  • The due date for payment

If you can’t pay the infringement, you need to check your infringement notice for options about what to do.

Most of the time, you have 21 days to pay your infringement, but you need to check your infringement notice to confirm this. If you can’t pay, you must take action before the deadline.

The infringement notice will include payment options and contact details. Some infringements are payable through Fines Victoria and some directly through the enforcement agency, for example the local council. Generally your options to deal with your fine depend on the stage that is at. Please see ‘If I receive an infringement, what are my options’ section.

If this happens, the authority may take further action against you, which may include:

  • Issuing a Penalty Reminder Notice, which will add extra fees to your infringement
  • If the infringement remains unpaid, the enforcement agency which issued the infringement notice can refer the matter to Fines Victoria. Fines Victoria may then issue a Notice of Final Demand, adding another payment amount to your infringement
  • If the infringement remains unpaid, an enforcement warrant will be issued. The warrant will allow a Sheriff’s Officer to visit you and take action to recover the money, which may include a demand for payment, wheel-clamping your vehicle, stopping you at a police roadblock, seizing and selling your property, suspension of your drivers’ licence and car registration
  • The Sheriff’s Officer can give you a 7 Day Notice. If this happens, you must take action immediately. If you don’t pay, make arrangements to pay, or dispute the infringement within this time, the matter will be referred to the Magistrates’ Court, and you face more severe penalties which, in some cases, may include imprisonment

Every time an infringement moves to the next stage of the process, the amount you’re required to pay increases. At each stage, the infringement becomes more difficult to challenge, and there are fewer options.  Don’t ignore an infringement.

You must act before the due date. If you receive an infringement and you’re not sure what to do, contact us as soon as possible for advice.

Stages of an infringement notice

When an infringement notice is issued but remains unpaid, and you don’t raise any issues or exercise your options, your infringement notice goes through the following stages:

When you receive an infringement notice (the first stage of the infringements lifecycle), how you deal with it will depend on the circumstances leading to the offence. You may be surprised to learn that there are many options about what you can do, depending on the situation.

Your options at the infringement and penalty reminder notice stage are:

Pay the infringement

If you agree that you committed the offence, you can pay the infringement. Make sure you pay before the due date. If you pay on time, that ends the matter, with no further legal action.

If you pay the infringement, you can’t appeal or dispute it. If you think there’s an issue, don’t pay it straight away. To challenge the infringement, you must act before the due date. Please see below for the review options available.

However, sometimes infringements are accompanied by other penalties, particularly in traffic matters, for example, demerit points and licence suspension.

To find out more, visit Vic Roads’ Demerit Points and Driver History website page.

To pay your infringement online, visit Fines Victoria.


Tell the authority you’re not the responsible person

If you weren’t driving the car at the time of the offence, you must nominate another person before the due date. You can do this by following the instructions on the infringement notice.

If you’re successful, the Police will withdraw the infringement notice and issue another notice to the person who was driving the car.

To find out more, visit Fines Victoria’s Nominate a Driver page.


Internal review

You can ask the authority who issued you the fine, to review the infringement notice if you believe you shouldn’t have received it. This is also known as an internal review. If the review is successful, the authority may decide to withdraw the notice.

These are the various grounds of internal review available:

  • There were special circumstances (These include intellectual disability, mental illness or disorder, a serious addiction to drugs or alcohol, homelessness and/or family violence). See the tab ‘What are special circumstances, and how do I apply?’ for more information.
  • The infringement notice was against the law (contrary to law)
  • Someone else committed the offence (mistaken identity)
  • You didn’t receive an infringement notice (person unaware)
  • There were exceptional circumstances. These are not defined, however are usually circumstances which are out-of-the-ordinary, unavoidable or unexpected. Examples may include medical emergencies or mechanical breakdowns.

Once your infringement notice has been reviewed, you can’t ask for another review for the same incident.  

Internal Reviews are not available for:

  • excessive speeding
  • drink-driving offences
  • rail safety work offences
  • alcohol-related boating offences

For more information, see Important points to remember

For more information about internal reviews, including what happens after you apply, visit the Fines Victoria website.


Go to Court

We highly recommend that you seek legal advice before challenging any infringement in court. 

You may decide to refer your infringement to Court if you believe you have reasonable grounds and a defence to challenge it. You shouldn’t refer your find  to Court because you can’t afford to pay it – this is not a defence.

This option is only available at the infringement and penalty reminder notice stage.

If you refer your infringement to Court, the infringement is withdrawn, and you will be issued with a charge and summons. This means the Magistrates’ Court will hear your matter as a criminal matter. If you are found guilty, or if you plead guilty, a conviction may be recorded against you. Regardless of the outcome at Court, the result will appear on your criminal record.

We highly recommend that you seek legal advice before challenging any infringement in Court. You may be able to apply for an internal review of your fine, instead of referring it to court. 

For more information about going to Court to challenge an infringement notice, visit the Fines Victoria website.

Apply for an extension of time to pay or a payment plan

If you can’t pay the full amount of the infringement by the due date, you may be able to get an extension of time to pay or arrange payment by instalments (payment of smaller amounts at regular intervals, commonly called a payment plan).

You can apply for either an extension of time or an instalment plan through Fines Victoria and they will work out whether you’re eligible. It will take into account:

  • The amount of the infringement
  • Your income and financial situation
  • Your history of paying infringements
  • Whether you’re experiencing hardship

For more information, visit Fines Victoria’s website pages about:


Other options

Family Violence Scheme

If you’re a survivor of family violence, you may be able to apply to have the infringement withdrawn.  

The scheme allows people to apply to have their infringement fines withdrawn if family violence substantially contributed to the offence or it is not safe for them to name the responsible person.

Applying to have the infringement withdrawn due to family violence is different from applying under special circumstances. To apply under the scheme, a person must show that:

  • You’re a family violence survivor
  • The family violence substantially contributed to the person not being able to:
    • control the conduct that constituted the offence; or
    • nominate the driver of the car because it was registered in your name; or
    • reject the other person nominating you as the responsible person because that person was violent towards you, causing you to fear for your safety.

Certain fines are excluded from the Scheme.

You can also view your options on the Fines Victoria website.

Work and Development Permit (WDP) Scheme

This provides people with a non-financial option to deal with their fine.

The  WDP is available for people experiencing acute financial hardship, homelessness, family violence, mental health problems and addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. The scheme allows applicants to work off their infringements by completing activities and treatment through an accredited sponsor

For more information, visit Fines Victoria’s website page about the Work and Development Permit.

The above options are applicable to fines at the infringement and penalty reminder notice stage. When your fines reach the Notice of Final Demand and Enforcement Warrant Stage, you have fewer options available to challenge your fine. Please note the review at these later stages is called Enforcement Review, not Internal Review. Please refer to the below chart, under Different options for different stages of an Infringement for an overview of the options available.

For more information about family violence and infringements, visit the Family Violence Scheme website page.

 


Get help from FineFixer

FineFixer is an interactive website which helps you work out your options. Use your infringement notice to answer the questions, and FineFixer will work out the best approach.

Visit the FineFixer website for more information.

If your infringement notice moves through different stages because it’s unpaid and you haven’t exercised an option, it’s important to know that your options change at every step.

Infringement NoticePenalty Reminder NoticeNotice of Final DemandEnforcement Warrant7 Day Notice7 Day Notice expires
Pay the infringementPay the infringement plus extra fees
Extension of time to pay----
Nominate the responsible person to pay the infringement----
Take the matter to Court----
Ask for an internal reviewAsk for an enforcement review-
Make a payment arrangement-
Apply for a Work and Development Permit-
Apply under the Family Violence Scheme-
-----Property seized or sold, community work or imprisonment

For more information, see the Fines Victoria infographic on the fines (infringements) lifecycle.

We can provide legal advice specific to your circumstances. Contact us to make an appointment.

Jakub’s special circumstances

Jakub lost his job a few months ago, and soon afterwards, was evicted from his rental home because he ran out of money to pay the rent. Since then, he has slept in his car, or occasionally on a couch at his friend Bob’s house. Jakub’s mental health has worsened over this time. He recently visited a medical clinic and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. A caseworker from the Salvation Army was helping him find a place to live, as well as a new job.

One night, Jakub drove through an intersection on a red light. There was a Police car behind him. The Police stopped him and gave him an infringement notice for speeding and driving through a red light. At this time, Jakub hadn’t eaten for two days, because he had no money.

Jakub was worried that he would lose his licence and that his car would be deregistered because he couldn’t pay the infringement. Jakub’s anxiety and depression increased because of this.

Bob was worried. He made an appointment for Jakub at Barwon Community Legal Service (BCLS).

The BCLS solicitor explained to Jakub that he may qualify for special circumstances because:

  • He was homeless
  • He wasn’t in control of his behaviour due to his anxiety and depression

The BCLS lawyer helped Jakub arrange:

  • A medical report from his doctor confirming his conditions of anxiety and depression, and the effect that would have on his ability to function normally. The report also confirmed why this condition caused him to break the traffic laws
  • A report from his Salvation Army caseworker confirming his homelessness and describing what efforts Jakub was making to find somewhere to live and a new job

Victoria Police accepted Jakub’s application for special circumstances and withdrew the infringement notice. Jakub was instead given a warning not to drive his car if he felt drowsy or unable to drive properly.

If you have a genuine reason to challenge it, do not pay the infringement. Instead, consider the following options:

  • Nominating someone else who was responsible for the infringement (for example, someone who was driving your car at the time of the infringement)
  • Asking the authority for an internal review
  • Referring the infringement to Court
  • Applying under special circumstances
  • Applying under the Family Violence Scheme
  • Apply under exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances are considered events which are out-of-the-ordinary, unavoidable or unexpected; for example, medical emergencies or mechanical breakdowns. Usually, you will need to show proof of exceptional circumstances

For more information, see If I receive an infringement notice, what are my options?

If someone else was driving your car and committed a traffic offence, usually the infringement notice is sent to you as the owner of the vehicle. You can fill in a form declaring that another person was the driver. If this is successful, the enforcement agency may withdraw the notice and issue a new notice to the other person.

Usually, you can only nominate another person when your infringement is at the infringement notice or penalty reminder notice stage.

To find out more, visit Fines Victoria’s Nominate a driver page.

Even if a situation is out of your control due to special circumstances, an infringement notice can be issued against you. However, the law recognises that sometimes this penalty is too severe. Your infringement may be withdrawn if you meet the criteria for special circumstances. You must also apply to Fines Victoria to ask that it takes your circumstances into account.

You can apply for special circumstances if you either:

  1. Didn’t understand that you were breaking the law; or
  2. Couldn’t control your behaviour

Categories for special circumstances include:

  • Mental illness or disorder
  • Intellectual disability
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Homelessness
  • Family violence

You’ll need to provide supporting evidence from a qualified practitioner that demonstrates your special circumstance and how your condition or circumstance caused you commit the offence. Depending on your circumstance, this may include reports or letters from:

  • Doctors
  • Psychologists or psychiatrists
  • Financial counsellors
  • Caseworkers

If you’re experiencing special circumstances, you may be in a vulnerable situation.

In some cases, we can help you understand your options, including whether you may have special circumstances. Contact us to make an appointment.

For more information, see Important points to remember below.

For more information, visit Fines Victoria’s website page about special circumstances.

You should receive an infringement notice either at the time of the offence, in the mail or left on your property (for example, taped to the windscreen of your car). However, sometimes notices are lost or misplaced.

If you’re concerned that you may have an infringement but you don’t have the notice, you can contact Fines Victoria to find out. If you know your infringement notice number, you can log into the Fines Victoria portal on their website to view your infringements and to seek more information.

Not all infringements are registered with Fines Victoria, for example, local council fines. If you believe you have outstanding infringement, check with Fines Victoria for updates. You may need to do this more than once.

If a local council or the Department of Transport issued your infringement, you will have to contact those enforcement agencies for more information.

Sometimes, the first you know about the infringement is when you receive a Penalty Reminder Notice. In these circumstances, you have 14 days from the time you first knew about the infringement to apply for an internal review under the category of person unaware.

If you become aware of an infringement for the first time when you receive a Notice of Final Demand or a warrant, the matter has progressed into the final stages, and you need to act quicklyIf the matter has reached this point, strict time limits apply. Contact us for urgent legal advice.

You must always keep your address updated with VicRoads. Failure to update your address isn’t a reasonable excuse for missing an infringement notice.

Contact us to make an appointment.

 

You have options

Work out what’s best for your circumstances and get things moving again.

Call us today

Last modified on July 15th, 2021 at 1:02 pm

The content on this site is information only and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice please contact us.

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