On 31 December 2017, the long-awaited changes to Victoria’s infringement system took effect. These changes include a lot of changes of terminology, changes in the time limits that apply for responding to an infringement notice and most importantly, changes to the review processes available in respect of infringements.
What is the infringements system?
The infringements system is a framework which details how less serious criminal, traffic, regulatory and other offences may be dealt with in Victoria. An infringement (commonly known as a “fine” or a “ticket”) is a notice given to someone who is alleged to have committed an infringement offence. Infringement offences can also be dealt with through the court system, however the infringements system operates to impose an administrative scheme for dealing with infringements at first instance.
The infringements system provides a framework for:
1. How and when payment of any fixed penalties that are associated with an infringement offence can be made;
2. How and when someone may apply for a payment plan or a reduction in the costs associated with enforcement of an infringement;
3. How and when someone can elect to nominate another person as being responsible for an infringement;
4. How and when someone can apply for review or cancelation of an infringement based on certain criteria (such as special circumstances); and
5. How and when someone may elect to have an infringement offence dealt with through the court system.
The infringement system contains a number of deadlines and criteria for each of the above steps and it is therefore important that a person who receives an infringement respond promptly and know their legal options.
Major changes to the infringements system
Please see below the key changes to terminology most people will need to be aware of:
|Old terminology||New terminology|
|Application for revocation||Application for enforcement review|
|Enforcement order||Notice of final demand|
|Payment order/payment plan||Payment arrangement|
|Civic compliance/Infringements court||Fines Victoria|
The infringements system now has a number of stricter time limits at each stage of the fines process.
|Stage of fine||Time limit|
|Infringement notice||21 days|
|Penalty reminder notice||14 days|
|Notice of final demand||21 days|
|Enforcement warrant||7 days from issue of 'Seven day notice'|
Changes to review process
Under the previous system, a person who applied for their fine to be revoked, and was unsuccessful, could appeal to the Magistrate’s Court of Victoria. Civic Compliance was often very rigid in the initial decision-making process, and the appeals process allowed for an important check and balance to its power.
Under the new system, there is no such appeal process. Additionally, the right to make a second Application for Revocation has been removed. While a person may still make a second application for Enforcement Review in a case of special circumstances, this option has now been practically removed where the person has not been aware of the infringement notice (in most cases due to 14 day time limits) and has been legally removed in relation to other grounds for review. This means that the initial application for Enforcement Review is now much more important.
Community Work Permits
The new system allows for the Sheriff to issue a Community Work Permit to persons with outstanding fines upon the expiry of a Seven Day Notice. A Community Work Permit allowed the person to ‘work-off’ their fines in certain circumstances where the person agrees and the total fines do not exceed 100 penalty units (currently $15,857.00).
While a Community Work Permit may be an excellent option for reducing fines for offenders who are unemployed and do not otherwise have special circumstances, the Community Work Permit system also imposes strict Community-Correction-Order-like conditions with penalties for non-compliance.
The new system allows for family violence to be considered as a relevant circumstance at both Internal Review and Enforcement Review stages. This reflects the modern understanding of the many ways in which family violence can impact people.
The new system allows for reviews to be made where the offender “is a victim of family violence and the family violence results in the person being unable to control conduct which constitutes an offence”. An example of this is where the victim is the registered owner of a motor vehicle and an abusive partner incurs fines in that vehicle. Given the power dynamics of abusive relationships, it may not be reasonable to expect the victim to nominate the abusive partner as the offender within the stipulated time frame.
By Carl Paterson Finch, Senior Associate