Infringements

Infringements

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

Important changes from 1 July 2017

On 31 December 2017, the Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic) (FRA) 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.

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 documents, identifying urgency and advising the client on their options.

When determining urgency and the options available to your client, consider this flowchart which provides an overview of the process and the options available:

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, enforcement warrants, warrants to imprison, court-imposed fines and/or charge and summons. This can include contacting Fines Victoria over the phone with the client to get a detailed list of outstanding infringements and fines and what stage they are at;
  3. Assess the urgency of the matter, for example, is there an enforcement warrant, has the Sheriff personally served the client with a seven day notice, or is there a warrant to imprison?
  4. Obtain instructions about the client's financial, personal, housing, physical and mental state and special circumstances (i.e. whether they were experiencing homelessness, mental health concerns, substance dependence or family violence 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 from Fines Victoria
  6. Provide initial advice based on the types and current stages of the client's fines and infringements, particularly:
    1. 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;
    2. if the Sheriff has personally served the client with a seven day notice, tell them about the urgency and the risk of enforcement; and
    3. if the client has an enforcement 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 personally receive a seven day notice from the Sheriff.
  7. If a client instructs that they have special circumstances and that they would like to make an application for review on this basis, explain the special circumstances process and key considerations to the client (including that it involves accepting that they committed the offences, pleading guilty and explaining the reasons behind the offending).

After the interview

 

  1. Obtain a list of the client's fines and infringements from Fines Victoria or from the enforcement agency.
  2. Gather supporting documents, for example, letters from a health professional and/or support letters from caseworkers.
  3. If necessary and subject to instructions, contact Fines Victoria 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.

For more information, you can also refer to the Fines Victoria website.

 

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 49 days), an infringement notice is registered with Fines Victoria and a notice of final demand will be issued. After this point, Fines Victoria is responsible for the infringements for all issuing agencies. If the infringement is not dealt with within 28 days of a notice of final demand being issued, then an enforcement warrant may be issued. 
  • once an enforcement warrant is issued, the Sheriff will personally serve the client with a seven day notice as their final warning before warrant execution takes place. 

In addition to infringement notices, penalty reminder notices, notices of final demand and enforcement 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. It is important to categorise the fines as the stage and category of a fine will determine what options are available to deal with the fine:

  1. Infringement or penalty reminder notice stage;
  2. Notice of Final Demand, enforcement warrant or seven day notice stage;
  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.