For Case Workers

Cancel Loading...

Fines and infringements

Important changes from 1 July 2017

From 1 July 2017, the Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) was changed as part of Victoria's fines reform process, including new ‘social justice initiatives' that affect people experiencing vulnerability. On 31 December 2017, the Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic) commenced, creating Fines Victoria. This resulted in significant further changes to the infringements system and substantially shorter timeframes for dealing with infringements and fines.

Please be aware of these reforms in relation to any infringements assistance that you are providing to your clients.

We are in the process of updating Homeless Law in Practice. Justice Connect Homeless Law pro bono lawyers should read our further materials about the changes here (password needed), before doing any fines work after 1 July 2017. Please speak to your supervising lawyer, team leader or Homeless Law staff for more information.

Get a full list of the client's infringements

Request a full list of the client's infringements.  You will need to attach a consent form signed by the client giving you permission to get this information on his behalf.    

What stage are the infringements at? 

Infringements go through a number of stages (initial, reminder notice, enforcement order and warrant).  Once the infringements are at enforcement order stage (usually about 2 - 3 months after they were issued), they get lodged with the Infringements Court (which is an administrative body, rather than an actual court).  After this point, you can apply to the Infringements Court to have the infringements revoked on the basis of special circumstances. 

Before this (i.e. when the infringements are still quite recent), the infringements will be listed with the relevant agency, such as Department of Transport, Victoria Police or local councils.  Give us a call if your client's infringements are quite recent - there is still an option for relying on special circumstances, but the process is different. 

Do special circumstances apply?

Under the Infringements Act, there is a mechanism for applying to have infringements waived, if you can establish that a person experienced a "special circumstance" at the time the offences were committed and that this special circumstance caused him or her to be unable to understand or control the conduct constituting the offence.   

Special circumstances include:

  •  a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness;
  •  a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or other volatile substance; or
  •  homelessness (including living in crisis or transitional accommodation).

 An application for revocation on the basis of special circumstances must be accompanied by a letter from a doctor or psychiatrist outlining the nature of the client's disability or illness. You should request such a letter from a psychiatrist of GP:

The following infringements cannot be dealt with via special circumstances:

  • infringements marked on the list provided by the Infringement Court as "Warrant Code C + D"; and
  • infringements that resulted in loss of licence (including DUI and excessive speeding).

Please give us a call if your client has these fines and we will discuss their options. 

Next steps in a special circumstances application

Complete the Application Form (Form B relates to special circumstances) and prepare a short cover letter explaining your client's circumstances and how these relate to the offences:

Send the completed Application Form, the supporting letter(s) and the cover letter to the Infringements Court, and wait to hear back from the Infringements Court

The Infringements Court will either:

  • reject the application - if this happens, your client can either pay the amount or object to the decision. If the client wants to object, they need to lodge the objection with the Infringements Court within 42 days of the date of the Infringements Court's refusal letter (contact us if the application is rejected);
  • grant the application - this means that the enforcement order (and any associated infringement warrant) is cancelled but it does not mean the matter is finalised. The Infringements Court then sends a copy of the revocation application to the relevant agency (such as Department of Transport, Victoria Police or a local council) and asks them whether they would like to withdraw the infringement notice. If the agency:
    • does withdraw - that is the end of the matter; or
    • does not withdraw (this is quite common) - the matter will get referred to the Special Circumstances List of the Magistrates' Court of Victoria for determination. You will receive a notice of a hearing date. The client must attend the hearing (and you are welcome to as well). Victoria Legal Aid provides duty lawyers who are easy to access on the day of the hearing and are well equipped to appear before the court to present the client's case (you should keep copies of the application and all supporting letters and the client should take these to court on the day). The most common result in the Special Circumstances List is that the infringements are withdrawn without conviction. Other options include that the client will be required to make a small donation to charity or the matter might be adjourned subject to the client's good behaviour or agreement to comply with rehabilitation or mental health treatment.

Other options

For infringements that are at enforcement order stage, if special circumstances do not apply or can't be established, the client can apply for a payment order.  You should also attach a cover letter and any supporting material setting out the client's hardship and request that the additional charges (for late payment, which can often double the amount of the initial fines) be waived.  Use the Payment Plan Application Form to do this.