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‘Calling in’ fines when your client is in jail

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.

If your client is serving a sentence of imprisonment, he/she can request the sheriff to apply to the court for an order that his/her eligible fines and infringements be converted to a period of imprisonment. For the purpose of this application, one penalty unit is equivalent to one day in custody. The current value of a penalty unit is $151.67 (as at 1 July 2015).  

The legislative basis for this application is section 161A of the Infringements Act (relating to infringement warrants) and section 16A of the Sentencing Act (relating to unpaid court fines where a warrant has issued).

If your client is serving a term of imprisonment for an offence other than an order under section 160 of the Infringements Act or default of an instalment order or payment of a fine, then the period of imprisonment imposed in lieu of the outstanding fines is served concurrently. Otherwise, cumulation on the uncompleted sentence is presumed (for matters under the section 16A of the Sentencing Act) or mandatory (for matters under section 161A of the Infringements Act).

If the court makes an order, it may count the time served by your client from the date he or she requested the sheriff to make the application.

In practice, we understand that: 

  • The Deemed Served Department receives notification of all prisoners who have fines or infringements when the person is processed through 'prison reception'.
  • All prisoners are sent a copy of their fines and a generic statement is included stating that the prisoner needs to confirm that they want fines converted to time served.
  • The Deemed Served Department waits until they receive an 'information sheet' from the prison that has been completed by the prisoner that requests the Deemed Served Department to convert the fines to prison time.
  • Generally, if the prisoner confirms they want the fines converted but there is not enough time left on their sentence, they are given the option of extending their sentence in order to serve time for their fines.

Key things to note when advising your client about the option of 'calling in' their fines are:

  • Only infringements at warrant stage can be called in. This means that not all of your client's outstanding infringements will necessarily be called in (for example, enforcement orders, infringement notices or penalty reminder notices).
  • Unpaid court fines can only be called in where the client is in default (28 days after the due date) and the Court has issued a warrant and directed it to the Sheriff's office.
  • Your client can only make the application to have their eligible fines and/or infringements 'called in' once they have been sentenced (i.e. not when they are on remand).
  • Before applying to have their fines and/or infringements 'called in' your client should consider the length of the period of imprisonment they will be required to serve as a result. If the period is longer than the amount of time they have left to serve on their sentence, 'calling in' the fines will have the effect of lengthening the overall period of imprisonment.

See here for a template letter of advice to clients in relation to 'calling in' fines. 

The Deemed Served Coordinator can be contacted on 03 8684 7628 with enquiries regarding warrants that have or can be called in for a client serving a prison sentence.