Infringements

Infringements

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A step-by-step guide to running an infringements matter

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.

Overview

This section provides an overview of the key steps in a fines and infringements matter, including taking instructions, categorising the fines and infringements, obtaining relevant documentation, identifying urgency and advising the client on their options.

When determining urgency and the options available to your client, consider these documents:

 

Initial instructions and advice

At your initial meeting with the client, you should:

  1. Obtain instructions about the client's outstanding fines, including (to the extent possible) about how many they have, what they are for and when they got them;
  2. Try to determine whether the client has infringements, infringement warrants, warrants to imprison, court-imposed fines and/or charge and summons;
  3. Assess the urgency of the matter, for example, is there an infringement warrant, has the client been served with a seven day notice, or is there a warrant to imprison?
  4. Obtain instructions about the client's financial, social, housing, physical and mental state and circumstances (in particular, whether they were homeless or were experiencing a mental illness or substance dependence at the time of the offending);
  5. Get the client's consent to contact any support workers or treating professionals, and to obtain a list of their infringements;
  6. Provide initial advice based on type of fine or infringement and what stage it is at, in particular:
    • if there is a warrant to imprison, advise the client of the seriousness of these warrants and the risk they could be imprisoned without going back before a court;
    • if the client has been served with a seven day notice, tell them about the urgency and the risk of enforcement; and
    • if the client has an infringement warrant, advise them about the risk of enforcement and the need to act quickly to prevent execution of the warrant. Remind them to contact you immediately if they receive a seven day notice.
  7. If a client instructs that they have special circumstances and that they would like to make an application for revocation on this basis, explain the special circumstances process to the client (including that it involves accepting that they committed the offences and explaining the reasons behind the offending).

After the interview

  1. Obtain a list of the client's fines and infringements from the Infringements Court using this letter and from an enforcement agency using this letter.
  2. Gather supporting documentation, for example, letters from a GP, psychologist, psychiatrist using this letter or from a homelessness support worker or other caseworker using this letter.
  3. If necessary and subject to instructions, contact the sheriff to request a hold on enforcement. 
  4. Send a letter advising the client of their options and confirm their instructions (before you do this, you will need to identify what types of fines and infringements the client has - see below). 

Categorise the fines and infringements

What type of fine or infringement a person has, what stage it's at and what the person's circumstances are will determine what their options are for dealing with the fine or infringement.

This diagram summarises the stages that an infringement goes through.    

In summary:

  • for the first two stages (infringement notice and penalty reminder notice), the agency that issued the infringement deals with it, for example, Victoria Police, Department of Transport or a local council;
  • if the infringement is not addressed in this time (usually about 2 - 3 months, but it can be longer), an infringement notice is lodged with the Infringements Court and an enforcement order will be issued. After this point, the Infringements Court is responsible for the enforcement orders for all issuing agencies. If the infringement is not dealt with within 28 days of an enforcement order being issued, an infringement warrant will be issued.

In addition to infringement notices, penalty reminder notices and infringement warrants, there are also open court fines and warrants to imprison.

In summary, the types of fines or infringements your client has will fall within one or more of the following six categories:

  1. Still an infringement or penalty reminder notice
  2. Enforcement order, infringement warrant or seven day notice  
  3. Driving offence where the client wasn't driving
  4. Excessive speeding (over 130km per hour or more than 25km over the speed limit) or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol  
  5. Open court fine
  6. Warrant to imprison