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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Penalty Units (Vic)


A penalty unit is a measurement used to determine the amount of a fine for an offence. The value of the unit is multiplied by the number of units set for the offence by the legislation.

The use of a penalty unit is more efficient than a monetary amount given that fine amounts are constantly changing with inflation and public policy. It avoids the time and administrative costs of amending legislation.

In Victoria, the value of a penalty unit is set on 1 July each year by the Department of Treasury and Finance, under authority granted by section 5(3) of the Monetary Units Act 2004. The current value of a unit in Victoria is $165.22.

Fines in Victoria are set out in a penalty scale, from 1 penalty unit ( a fine of $165.22), to a maximum of 3000 penalty units (a fine of $495,660).

Some examples of how units are used in Victorian legislation:

    • Wildlife Act 1975: To possess, breed, trade or display threatened wildlife without authorisation attracts a fine of 240 penalty units ($39,652.80) or 24 months imprisonment, or both, plus a penalty of 20 penalty units per head of wildlife.
    • Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995: A builder who does not supply a building owner with a copy of a domestic building contract within five days will be liable for a fine of 10 penalty units ($1652.20).
    • Summary Offences Act 1966: A person who performs tattooing on anyone aged under 18 is liable to a fine of 60 penalty units ($9913.20).
    • Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013: An employer who does not keep a register of injuries is liable to a fine, for each offence, of 60 penalty units ($9913.20) for a person, or 300 units ($49,566) for a body corporate.

Payment

Fines Victoria is the agency responsible for processing and enforcing fines issued by government bodies and courts in the state. On application to Fines Victoria, a person in financial hardship may be able to pay by instalments if they receive a State Government-issued fine.

Conversion

Penalty units can be converted into community service in limited circumstances. A person can apply to the Magistrates’ Court under the Magistrates’ Court Criminal Procedure Rules 2009 but an application will usually only be granted where a person is unemployed or there is an exceptional reason a fine cannot be paid off in instalments. The outstanding fine must not exceed an amount equivalent to 100 units. Every hour of community service worked converts to 0.2 of a penalty unit under the Sentencing Act 1991. While the conversion order is in force, the person can pay part of the outstanding fine, which will reduce the number of community service hours required to be worked.

Imprisonment

If the court is satisfied by evidence on oath, affidavit, or admission that a person is in default by more than 28 days in paying a fine, then under the Act, a magistrate can:

  • order the performance of community service equivalent to penalty units;
  • jail the person for a term of one day per penalty unit (if there was no reasonable excuse for the non-payment, and no other order is appropriate in the circumstances);
  • order the fine be levied under a warrant to seize property;
  • vary the original instalment order.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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