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Enforcement and execution of warrants

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.

Timeframes and service

An infringement warrant cannot be executed until your client has been served with a seven day notice warning of all the enforcement action that may be taken (section 88), a demand to pay the outstanding fines has been made and the seven days have expired.

A seven day notice is not required before your client's car can be detained or immobilised pursuant to sections 96 or 97 of the Infringements Act or VicRoads can be directed to not renew your client's registration or licence pursuant to sections 114 or 115 of the Infringements Act.  This action does not mean that the warrant has been executed.

A seven day notice must have been served personally on your client (section 162(2)(a)). If for any reason, it is impracticable to serve the notice personally, a Magistrate may order that specified steps be taken in order to bring the seven day notice to the notice of the person to be served.  The Magistrate can also order that notice be taken to have been served on the happening of any specified event or on the expiry of any specified time, even if your client is out of Victoria or was out of Victoria when the proceeding commenced (section 163).

The Sheriff has informed Homeless Law that the sheriff will generally contact your client by phone before serving him or her with a seven day notice.  If the sheriff considers that your client has difficulty understanding English, then they will provide a translation service. Your client also has the option of requesting that his or her lawyer be present when a sheriff’s officer serves the seven day notice. 

Information on seven day notices from the Sheriff's office can be accessed here and a guide is provided here.

What happens if your client takes no action?

If your client takes no action, following the expiry of a seven day notice, the sheriff’s officer or police officer or anyone else authorised to execute an infringement warrant is authorised to:

  • break, enter, search, seize and sell your client's personal property;
  • if there is insufficient personal property, arrest your client and:
    • negotiate a community work permit; or
    • if that option is not possible (for example, because the fines exceed 100 penalty units ($15,167 as at 1 July 2015) or your client has mental or physical health issues that would prevent them from complying with the community work permit), have them brought before the court for sentencing under section 160 of the Infringements Act (which may result in an imprisonment order). Most commonly, a client will be arrested and bailed to appear at a later date, but in some cases they can be brought before the court immediately within 24 hours for sentencing;
  • detain, immobilise, seize and sell your client's vehicle;
  • direct VicRoads to suspend your client's driver's licence or vehicle registration;
  • make an attachment of earnings or attachment of debt order;
  • as a last resort, apply to the court for an order that a charge be placed over real property and sold.

The Infringements Registrar can also issue your client with a summons for an oral examination

Your client will have more limited options if a warrant has been executed and their options will depend on the enforcement action that has been taken.  If a sheriff or police officer arrives at your client's property to execute a warrant and your client contacts you for advice, you should attempt to negotiate with the sheriff or police officer to delay executing the warrant until you have been able to either apply for revocation, a payment plan or to pay the fine.

For more information about each of these enforcement actions and options available to your client, click on the particular enforcement action that has been taken.

Snap-shot - when can you still apply for revocation or a payment order?

Your client can still apply for a revocation when:

  • a suspension sanction (such as a driver licence or vehicle registration) has been imposed against your client; or
  • a wheel clamp has been applied to your client's vehicle.

Your client cannot apply for revocation of an enforcement order if that order:

  • has resulted in seizure of your client's property;
  • has resulted in the client's arrest;
  • relates to an excessive speed, drink-driving or drug-driving offence.