Dealing with open court fines

If your client presents with open court fines, it means that they have been found guilty of committing an offence in open court and a Magistrate has sentenced your client to pay a fine under s 49 of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) (SA).

There are a number of ways that your client’s matter may be referred to, or end up in, open court, including because:

  • It was referred to open court during the infringements process (see ss 161725(1)(d) and 40 of the Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) (IA); or
  • An enforcement agency may elect not to deal with the offence by way of an infringement and instead prosecute the infringement by filing a charge and summons sheet against your client; or
  • The offence is not an infringeable offence (for example a theft, burglary, or a drug trafficking offence).

If the Magistrate has ordered the fine be paid under an instalment plan, from 1 January 2018, your client will need to now make payment to Fines Victoria. From that date, Fines Victoria took over the administration of fines that were previously paid to the Magistrates’ Court.

What options does your client have?

The options for dealing with fines imposed in open court are as follows:

  1. Apply to the registrar for an extension of time, an instalment plan, a variation of instalment order;
  2. Apply for a conversion of the fine to an unpaid community work order;
  3. Apply to the Magistrate to vary or cancel an instalment or payment order;
  4. Apply for a re-hearing if your client did not attend the hearing when the fine was imposed and the client has a valid reason for not attending;
  5. Appeal the decision to the County Court;
  6. Appeal the decision to the Supreme Court;
  7. Pay in full.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to apply for enforcement review for fines imposed by a court as a sentencing disposition under the SA.

What fees and charges added to court fines can be waived?

It is also possible to have fees and charges that have been added by Fines Victoria to court fines waived through making a written application to the Director of Fines Victoria. The Director of Fines Victoria then has the power under s 9 of the Fines Reform Act to waive these fess and charges. This is an important avenue for many Homeless Law clients as it can significantly reduce the amount that they may be required to pay in relation to court fines.

In determining what fees and charges may be able to be waived, you should look specifically at fees and charges added by Fines Victoria as fees or court costs can not be waived under this provision. You may find it helpful to consider the court fines lifecycle in determining what fees you could apply to have waived.

For a document produced by Fines Victoria on frequently asked questions about court fines, please refer to this FAQ.

This page contains legal information only. View our disclaimer.

Not a lawyer?

Homeless Law in Practice provides resources and tools for Victorian lawyers and advocates. If you’re looking for help, visit Justice Connect.