Infringements

Infringements

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Warrants to arrest, bail and community work permits

Important changes from 1 July 2017

From 1 July 2017, the Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) will be changed as part of Victoria’s fines reform process, including new ‘social justice initiatives’ that will affect people experiencing vulnerability. Please be aware of these reforms in relation to any infringements and fines assistance that you are providing to your clients.

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 the person executing the warrant has a reasonable belief that your client does not have sufficient property to cover the amount owed under the warrant, then he or she may break, enter and search for your client in any place where he or she is suspected to be and arrest your client (sections 82(1)(c) and 82(3)).

Because of their limited property, arrest is the most common enforcement option for people experiencing homelessness who have infringement warrants.

Options if your client is arrested

If your client is arrested and does not pay the amount outstanding on the infringement warrant(s), then your client must be:

  • released on a community work permit (section 83);
  • brought before the Magistrates' Court within 24 hours; or
  • released on bail with a fixed date to attend the Magistrates' Court.

If your client's matter is brought before the Magistrates' Court, the Magistrate will sentence your client under section 160 of the Infringements Act.

Bailed to appear

If your client is arrested and is not released on a community work permit, it is most common that your client will be offered bail and a hearing at the Magistrates' Court will be fixed at a later date. In some cases, however, your client may be brought before the Magistrates' Court within 24 hours. If your client agrees to the bail conditions by signing an "Undertaking of Bail", he or she will be released immediately.  An Undertaking of Bail requires your client to appear before a particular Magistrates' Court at a specified time to be heard.

If your client does not appear at Magistrates' Court in compliance with the terms of the "Undertaking of Bail", your client may face imprisonment (section 30 of the Bail Act 1977).

If your client refuses to enter into an Undertaking of Bail and is not eligible for a community work permit, your client will be taken to the person in charge of prison or police jail where he or she will be held for a maximum period of 24 hours so the matter can be heard by a Magistrate and dealt with under section 160 of the Infringements Act (section 82(1)(c)(ii)).

The operation of section 160 and the risk of imprisonment for clients are discussed in detail in "Hearing and Sentencing under Section 160". 

Community work permit

A community work permit is an agreement that your client will perform unpaid community work instead of paying the fine. 

If your client agrees to a community work permit, your client will be released immediately. 

Eligibility

Your client will be eligible for a community work permit if:

  • the outstanding fine does not exceed an amount equivalent to the value of 100 penalty units ($15,167). This rate is applicable for the year 1 July 2015 – 30 June 2016 and will vary each financial year according to the definition of 'penalty unit' under section 5(3) of the Monetary Units Act 2004 (Vic). The Department of Justice website lists the current penalty rates;
  • your client consents to performing unpaid community work; and
  • the sheriff is satisfied that your client:
    • has the capacity to perform community work; and
    • is reasonably unlikely to breach the conditions of a community work permit (section 147). 

If your client is arrested and is not eligible for a community work permit, your client will be brought before the Magistrates' Court under section 159 of the Infringements Act within 24 hours or released on bail with a fixed date to attend the Magistrate' Court.  At the Magistrates' Court, your client will be sentenced under section 160 of the Infringements Act. 

Conditions of a community work permit

If your client is released on a community work permit, then he or she will effectively work off the outstanding amount of the fine at a rate of 0.2 penalty units ($30.33 as of 1 July 2015) per hour (section 152).  Your client cannot work more than 20 hours in a seven day period unless he or she has requested to do so and signs a written consent to working additional hours. 

The total number of hours worked cannot exceed the following time periods:

Number of hours

Period

376 to 500

24 months

251 to 375

18 months

126 to 250

12 months

51 to 125

6 months

Up to 50

3 months

If your client is ill or there are other exceptional circumstances, the community work permit can be suspended (section 154).

The following conditions apply to all community work permits:

  • your client cannot commit an offence punishable on conviction by imprisonment;
  • your client must report to a specified community corrections centre within two clear working days after the issue of a community work permit;
  • your client must report to, and receive visits from, a community corrections officer;
  • your client must notify an officer at a specified community centre of any change of address or employment within two working days after the change;
  • your client cannot leave Victoria without the permission of community corrections officer at a specified community corrections centre; and
  • your client must obey all lawful instructions and directions of community corrections officers (section 149).

Breach of conditions of a community work permit

If your client does not, without reasonable excuse, comply with the conditions of a community work permit, a community corrections officer may file a charge and summons against your client in Court.  A charge can be filed up until 3 years after the date on which the offence is alleged to have been committed (section 156). 

Once a charge and summons has been filed, an application can be made for a warrant to arrest your client.  Once arrested, your client will be brought before the Magistrates' Court under section 159.

If the Magistrate finds your client guilty of the offence, the Magistrate may:

  • in relation to the charge for the offence of breaching the community work permit, impose a fine not exceeding 10 penalty units ($1,516.70 as of 1 July 2015. Check here for the current value of penalty units); and
  • in relation to the community work permit (and the underlying infringements that it deals with):
    • vary the community work permit; or
    • confirm the community work permit; or
    • cancel the community work permit and sentence your client under section 160 of the Infringements Act.

A number of the clients that Homeless Law sees with warrants to imprison have been through the following process:

  • the person is arrested under one or more infringements warrants and signed up to a community work permit under section 148 of the Infringements Act;
  • they do not complete the community work as required and are issued with a charge and summons under section 156 of the Infringements Act for breach of the community work permit;
  • they are brought before the court, the community work permit is cancelled and the client is sentenced under section 160 of the Infringements Act where an order is made for them to pay the outstanding amount by way of instalments and an imprisonment in lieu order is made (i.e. if they do not keep up with the repayments, a warrant to imprison under s 160 will be issued); and  
  • The client has not kept up with the repayments and a warrant to imprison has been issued meaning that they are facing jail time for unpaid fines. Dealing with section 160 warrants to imprison provides information about these warrants and how to deal with them.

Variation or cancellation of a community work permit

Either your client or the community corrections officer can apply to the Magistrates' Court to vary or cancel the community work permit while the community work permit is in force.  The Magistrate may vary the permit or cancel it if the court is satisfied that:

  • the circumstances of your client have materially altered since the community work permit was issued resulting in your client being unable to comply with a condition of the permit;
  • the circumstances of your client were wrongly stated or were not accurately presented to the sheriff before the community work permit was issued; or
  • your client is no longer willing to comply with the community work permit (section 155).

Part payment of outstanding fines to reduce community service

While the community work permit is in force, your client can pay part of the outstanding fines which will reduce the number of hours that your client is required to work (calculated by 0.2 penalty unit ($30.33) per hour as of 1 July 2015) (section 157).