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Dealing with open court fines

If your client presents with open court fines, it means that they have been found guilty of committing an offence in open court and a Magistrate has sentenced your client to pay a fine under s 49 of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) (SA).

There are a number of ways that your client's matter may be referred to, or end up in, open court, including because:

  • It was referred to open court during the infringements process (see ss 16, 17, 25(1)(d) and 40 of the Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) (IA); or
  • An enforcement agency may elect not to deal with the offence by way of an infringement and instead prosecute the infringement by filing a charge and summons sheet against your client; or
  • The offence is not an infringeable offence (for example a theft, burglary, or a drug trafficking offence).

If the Magistrate has ordered the fine be paid under an instalment plan, from 1 January 2018, your client will need to now make payment to Fines Victoria. From that date, Fines Victoria took over the administration of fines that were previously paid to the Magistrates' Court.

What options does your client have?

The options for dealing with fines imposed in open court are as follows:

  1. Apply to the registrar for an extension of time, an instalment plan, a variation of instalment order;
  2. Apply for a conversion of the fine to an unpaid community work order;
  3. Apply to the Magistrate to vary or cancel an instalment or payment order;
  4. Apply for a re-hearing if your client did not attend the hearing when the fine was imposed and the client has a valid reason for not attending;
  5. Appeal the decision to the County Court;
  6. Appeal the decision to the Supreme Court;
  7. Pay in full.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to apply for enforcement review for fines imposed by a court as a sentencing disposition under the SA.