SDRO Annulment of Fines and Penalties
Many people who receive a traffic ticket or other infringement notice simply accept responsibility and pay the fine or penalty amount. Sometimes people will want to contest the matter in court by making a court election. In other cases people do not receive the correspondence, it gets lost or something else intervenes to prevent them from finalising the penalty notice in time. If an infringement is not finalised in time, enforcement action may be taken.
What is an SDRO Enforcement Order and When is it Made?
Police, transit officers and other authorised officers can issue penalty notices which are also referred to as infringements, fines or tickets. The penalty notice can be given on the spot but could also be sent to the responsible person’s postal address.
The penalty notice will have a due date for payment of the fine. If the fine is not paid by that date, a penalty reminder notice may be sent. If the fine is not paid by the due date on the penalty reminder notice then action can be taken to recover the unpaid fine.
The Commissioner of Fines and Administration has the power to issue an Enforcement Order. This happens once the due date on a penalty reminder notice has passed. Once the Enforcement Order is issued, the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO) will take action on behalf of the New South Wales Government to chase up or recover the unpaid fine.
An Enforcement Order is an order that the infringement or offence is proved and that the corresponding penalty notice amount is owing.
What are the Potential Consequences of a SDRO Enforcement Order?
Once an infringement or penalty notice is “enforced” it is considered that the underlying offence is proved or made out. In other words, the person is taken to have been found guilty of the offence.
In practice, this means that the fine of the sum is now owing to the NSW State Government and that, in the case of traffic offences, any associated demerit points or breaches of good behaviour licenses are incurred at that time.
Consequences for non-payment of fines can include:
- The SDRO suspension of NSW Driver’s Licence due to unpaid fines;
- Suspension of road toll accounts;
- The imposition of additional costs or fees;
- Garnishee orders; or
- RMS suspension of drivers licences for the accrual of demerit points or breach of good behaviour licences.
In some circumstances an application to annul the enforcement order can be made in order to avoid the above consequences.
What Can I Do if a SDRO Enforcement Order Has Been Made?
If an SDRO enforcement order has been made you can:
- Pay the fine;
- Seek to be given further time to pay;
- Seek the review of the infringement; or
- Make an application to the Commissioner for the SDRO to Annul (remove) the enforcement order.
How Do I Make an Application to Annul a SDRO Enforcement Order?
An application to annul a SDRO Enforcement Order is first made to the Commissioner of Fines and Administration. This can be done online through the SDRO website or with the assistance of a lawyer. There is a non-refundable $50 fee, however the fee can be waived in certain circumstances.
Once this application is made the Commissioner will either accept or reject the application to have an enforcement order annulled. If the application is rejected, it can be appealed to the Local Court.
The SDRO website contains a questionnaire which must be completed to file an application. Some enforcement order annulment applications are complicated. Not all circumstances will fit within the SDRO website’s list of circumstances. You can seek the assistance of the SDRO’s customer service branch, Law Access or a private lawyer.
Furthermore, answers to the online form can be relied on in court, so you should obtain legal advice prior to making an application for the annulment of an enforcement order.
Armstrong Legal are able to provide prompt assistance with these matters and can be contacted on 1300 146 568.
How Do I Have the Matter Heard in Court?
An application to annul an SDRO enforcement order can only be heard in court if the Commissioner has refused to annul the order. Once the Commissioner has refused the annulment application, then an application can be made to the Local Court. The application to the Local Court is an appeal against the decision of the Commissioner refusing to annul the enforcement order and requires the court to be satisfied that the enforcement order ought to be annulled.
The application must be made in writing and using the prescribed forms. Ideally, affidavit or other sworn evidence providing the basis for the application should also be prepared.
The legislative test requires the annulment of the enforcement order where:
- the person was not aware that a penalty notice had been issued until the enforcement order was served, but only if the application was made within a reasonable time after that service; or
- the person was otherwise hindered by accident, illness, misadventure or other cause from taking action in relation to the penalty notice, but only if the application was made within a reasonable time after the person ceased being so hindered; or
- the penalty reminder notice was, or both the penalty notice and the penalty reminder notice, in relation to a particular offence were, returned as being undelivered to its sender after being sent to the person at the person’s recently reported address (within the meaning of section 126A) and notice of the enforcement order was served on the person at a different address.
The legislation also allows a discretional annulment of the enforcement order where:
- the Commissioner [or court] is satisfied that a question or doubt has arisen as to the person’s liability for the penalty or other amount concerned, but only if the person had no previous opportunity to obtain a review of that liability, or
- having regard to the circumstances of the case, the Commissioner [or court] is satisfied that there is other just cause why the application should be granted.
WHERE TO NEXT?
In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.