Infringement notices or ‘on-the-spot’ fines are issued for many minor offences, including parking and traffic offences, public transport offences and public space offences (such as begging or being drunk in a public place). In Victoria, there are over 1800 offences that can be dealt with through an infringement notice.
Temporary COVID-19 amendments
From 25 April 2020, the temporary COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 (COVID-19 Act) amends section 17 of the FRA until 29 September 2020, by prescribing that infringements must be registered no more than 12 months after:
the date that the alleged offence was committed (subsection 17(a));
the date of service of the infringement notice for alleged offences against specific legislation including the Electoral Act, Local Government Act, East Link Project Act, Melbourne City Link Act and the West Gate Tunnel Act (subsections 17(b),(c),(k),(l),(la));
there was a default or cancellation of a payment plan (subsections 17(d) and (f));
an infringement was removed from a payment plan (subsection 17(e));
there was a cancellation or default of a payment arrangement (subsection 17(g));
the outcome of the infringement notice being reviewed under the Infringements Act is communicated (subsection 17(h)); or
a Work and Development Permit has been cancelled (subsection 17(m)).
Prior to the COVID-19 Act amendment, an infringement fine had to be registered within 6 months under s 17 of the FRA.
The IA and the FRA regulate the enforcement of infringements in Victoria. Issuing infringement notices provides an alternative method for dealing with minor offences that would otherwise have proceeded directly through the court system (typically by the issue of a “charge and summons” sheet which is a court document alleging a criminal offence against a person and requiring him or her to attend court on a particular date to answer a charge).
Infringement notices are commonly issued for summary offences (minor criminal offences heard and decided in a Magistrates’ Court and not sent for trial before a judge and jury).
For some offences such as being drunk in a public place, begging and disorderly behaviour, the enforcement agency has the discretion to either issue a “charge and summons” sheet or an infringement notice.
Infringement notices should also be distinguished from court-imposed fines which occur when a person has been found guilty of committing an offence in open court and a Magistrate sentences that person to pay a fine under the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) (SA).
Note that the process and options for dealing with infringements and court-imposed fines are different.
It is common for Homeless Law clients to present with a combination of infringements, Notices of Final Demand (formerly called Enforcement Orders), Enforcement Warrants (formerly called Infringement Warrants) and open court fines.
It is important that you can identify what type of fine or infringement your client has; what the urgency of the matter is and relevant timeframes; and what your client’s options are. The step-by-step guide to running an infringements matter is a good starting point.
As a member of a community legal centre, you should be able to access information about your client’s infringements without needing a written authority to act. You can access more information on this here.