Under the Infringements Act 2006, if you have debt in the form of unpaid infringements, the court has the power to imprison you depending on the size of the outstanding debt. The infringement process involves an initial fine and penalty reminder letter, an enforcement order, then an enforcement warrant. If you receive an enforcement order or an enforcement warrant, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible, to determine what your options are.
If you pay the penalty shown on the infringement notice, the matter comes to an end. This means that no further action can be taken against you in respect of the offence. Generally, no conviction is recorded against you.
If the infringement notice suspends or cancels your licence, you must lodge an objection within 28 days of receiving the notice if you want to challenge the matter in court.
If you fail to pay the fine within the time prescribed in your infringement notice, Fines Victoria will send you a penalty reminder notice. Once you receive the reminder letter, you have a further 28 days to pay the penalty, in addition to a recovery fee, which is added to your original infringement amount.
If you fail to pay the infringement notice after the penalty reminder letter, the authority that issued you with the infringement will lodge the infringement with the Infringements Court. The Infringements Court is a branch of the Magistrates’ Court which makes court orders to enforce the payment of fines.
The Infringements Court can then issue you with an enforcement order notice which is a written order by the court that states you must comply with the order. You will then have a further 28 days to pay the infringement or take other action. Costs continue to accrue on any infringement if it remains unpaid.
If you want to contest the original infringement, you will need to apply for a revocation of the enforcement order. This is done by submitting an application for revocation, which is then considered by the Infringements Registrar. There is only one opportunity to apply for revocation.
If the enforcement order remains unpaid, the Infringements Court will issue an enforcement warrant to recover the debt. The warrant enables the sheriff to take action which includes:
- seizing and selling your property to raise money to pay the debt;
- arresting you and bailing you to attend court; or
- suspending your licence and vehicle registration until the debt is paid.
The warrant will be executed by a sheriff coming to your house and giving you a “seven day notice”, which gives you seven days to pay the debt before they start to seize your property or arrest you. If the sheriff has given you such a notice, contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Your outstanding debt can be revoked at any time before the enforcement warrant is executed. Revocation is where the Infringements Court decides to revoke or cancel the enforcement order and the matter is referred back to the agency that issued the infringement. If the application for revocation is unsuccessful, you have six weeks to appeal the decision to the Magistrates Court. The application for revocation is then referred to a magistrate who can reduce the outstanding debt in part or in full.
Your application for revocation is more likely to be successful if you have “special circumstances”. Special circumstances include a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness or a serious addiction to drugs or alcohol where it results in the person being unable to:
- understand that conduct constitutes an offences; or
- control conduct that constitutes an offence.
Special circumstances can also include homelessness.
There is only one opportunity to apply for revocation of the debt and it is important to have a lawyer to help you to include all the relevant information to explain why you are contesting the infringement or could not pay it in the first instance.
For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.