The State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) is responsible for managing and enforcing fines issued on behalf of the Queensland government. SPER has the power to suspend a person’s driver licence for unpaid fines, even when the fines are completely unrelated to driving. This includes but is not limited to:
- Parking fines;
- Speeding fines;
- Court fines;
- Offender levy debts;
- Failure to vote fines;
- Toll fines;
However, there are certain steps that SPER must take prior to suspending a person’s driver licence.
How can SPER enforce unpaid fines?
Firstly, SPER must make demands for the unpaid fine to be paid by contacting the person in writing. If the person still does not make payment, SPER will then issue an enforcement order. The enforcement order will include a registration fee, which is added to all enforcement orders. Once the person has received an enforcement order, the person must pay the whole amount of the debt by the due date provided by SPER.
What happens if a person is unable to pay the SPER debt?
If the person is unable to pay the whole amount of the SPER debt immediately, then the person may be eligible to pay by regular installments. An installment plan is set up directly with SPER and SPER deducts a person’s installment plan payments directly from a bank account, eligible Centrelink payments, or credit card. Any other unpaid fines in a person’s name will also be included in the installment plan to avoid SPER taking enforcement action against the person for some other matter.
It is also sometimes possible to undertake unpaid community work instead of paying the fine.
When can SPER suspend a person’s licence?
SPER has the ability to suspend a person’s driver’s licence if a person ignores an enforcement order and does not take any of the actions mentioned above.
SPER will send a notice of intention to suspend a person’s driver’s licence to their last known address. A person will have fourteen (14) days to act before SPER suspends their driver’s licence.
Failure to keep relevant authorities such as Queensland Transport and Main Roads up to date with a person’s contact details will not be an acceptable excuse if a person is pulled over by Police while driving on SPER suspended driver’s licence.
A person’s whole debt must be paid off before the suspension will be lifted.
What happens if a person is caught driving while suspended by SPER?
If a person is caught driving with a driver’s licence that is suspended by SPER, then it will be deemed that the person was driving without a valid driver’s licence. They will be issued with a Notice to Appear before a Magistrates Court, where a Magistrate will impose an appropriate penalty.
Under the legislation, the penalty for driving without a valid driver’s licence is a minimum disqualification period of one (1) month, and a maximum disqualification period of six (6) months. This means that if a person is charged with driving while SPER suspended, they will need to attend the court date provided on the Notice to Appear, and they will be sentenced to a disqualification period of at least one (1) month.
As well as receiving a court-ordered disqualification period, the person will also receive a monetary or community-based penalty or a term of imprisonment of up to twelve (12) months. The person will also be required to pay an offender levy like any offender sentenced in any Queensland Court.
What other steps can SPER take to enforce an unpaid fine?
SPER has other options available to enforce unpaid fines. SPER has the power to take the following actions in appropriate circumstances:
- Issue a fine collection notice to deduct money from a person’s bank, wages, or from an organisation holding money on a person’s behalf;
- Apply a charge on real estate, vehicles or any other personal property;
- Attach a wheel clamp, without a person’s consent, to any vehicle registered in a person’s name; and
- Issue a warrant to seize and sell property.
The most important step to take after being issued a fine by SPER is to ensure that a person’s contact details are up to date with relevant authorities. A person must also ensure that all fines received are immediately paid, or a payment plan put in place, unless the offence is disputed. If the offence is disputed, the fine should not be paid, and all necessary steps should be taken to challenge the fine within the time period provided.
SPER can be contacted from Monday to Friday, between the hours of 8:00am and 6:00pm by calling 1300 365 635 from anywhere in Australia.
If you need legal advice or assistance please contact Go To Court Lawyers.
By Temeka Sue-Tin, Solicitor