Instructions & advice

Obtaining detailed instructions and initial advice

This section sets out in detail the information you should try to obtain from your client in the initial interview and in subsequent days. It also provides some guidance about advice the client should be provided with at the initial interview (for example, regarding timeframes, urgency and potential options).

See How to run a matter for an overview.

When attending Homeless Law clinics, you may want to take a checklist with you:

Instructions checklist

This instructions checklist provides guidance about the types of information you should try to obtain from the client at the initial interview. You do not need to go through it in an exhaustive way, but it’s a helpful prompt. Often clients will not have clear memories or records of these details, but piece together what you can.

Personal information about the client

  • Full name (including middle name);
  • Any previous names (including spelling variations) or aliases;
  • Any current address, contact phone numbers or emails;
  • Previous addresses, particularly those that might have been given by the client when they received the fines;
  • Date of birth;
  • Driver licence number;
  • Centrelink Customer Reference Number (CRN);
  • Photocopy of identification documents (i.e. Health Care card, driver licence, Medicare card);
  • Alternative contact people and their details (eg. caseworker, health professional, trusted relative/friend); and
  • A signed authority to act form.

 Details of fines

  • Obtain copies of the fines and/or details about where, when and what types of fines they may have received (i.e. infringement notices or court-imposed fines);
  • Obtain copies of any letters and court documents relating to the fines. You should also obtain the client’s consent to get a current list of their fines from Fines Victoria;
  • Determine the stage that each fine is at and the urgency (especially if the client has personally received any Seven Day Notices or whether the Sheriff has visited the client about their relevant fines);
  • If you are concerned that there are urgent fines, consider calling Fines Victoria to get further information over the phone while you are with the client;
  • Determine all applicable dates (including any previous or future court dates) for each fine. Make sure that you consult with the table of key timeframes and legislation in relation to each infringement or court-imposed fine;
  • If the client has any court-imposed fines, determine if the client attended the hearing/s; and
  • Confirm whether the client admits to the commission of the offences (and if so, any factors that are relevant to the client committing the offences) or if they have any other potentially valid excuses.

Elements of a special circumstances application or payment plan application

Generally, Homeless Law clients meet the definition of special circumstances and so you should ensure that you obtain all the information you need to apply for an internal review (for infringements and penalty reminder notices) or an enforcement review (for notices of final demand/enforcement warrants) on the basis of special circumstances. If your client is relying on special circumstances, it means that your client is admitting to committing the offence and pleading guilty.

  • Does the client currently experience or have they previously faced the following:
    • a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness;
    • a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or other volatile substance;
    • homelessness (which includes the client living in crisis accommodation, transitional accommodation or having inadequate access to safe and secure housing); or
    • family violence, including being the victim of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or economic abuse, or the subject of threatening or coercive behaviour?
  • Did the client suffer from these conditions or circumstances at the times when the offences were committed?
  • Did those circumstances result in the client being unable to understand that their conduct constituted an offence, or being unable to control that conduct? If so, how?
  • What is the client’s housing history? Has the client spent time in crisis centres, transitional housing, boarding homes, friends’ homes or on the streets?
  • Has the client accessed supports in relation to any family violence experienced at the times they received the fines?
  • Has the client been taking medication to treat any mental health condition (eg anti-depressants)?
  • If the client had or has problems with drugs or alcohol, has the client participated in any rehabilitation or counselling programs or is the client planning to undertake a program to address these problems?
  • Obtain details of the nature of the condition/s, the status of the condition/s at the time of the offences, the current status of the condition/s and any steps taken to address the condition/s (eg health or rehabilitative treatment).
  • Obtain the names and contact details of any doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, caseworker, housing worker or counsellor treating the client, and obtain the client’s consent to contact them with a request for a supporting letter or report.
  • Was the client dealing with any other life issues at the times the fines were incurred (eg relationship break up or bereavement)?
  • Obtain details of the client’s weekly income and expenses (such as accommodation, food, electricity, gas, telephone, transport, medical, personal and miscellaneous expenses), assets and debts.
Obtaining further details of fines and infringements

In most cases, clients do not present with current and complete documents about their fines and it is not possible to obtain copies of original infringement notices.

If the client does provide copies of infringement notices, each notice will contain details about:

  • the offence;
  • the infringement number;
  • the name and address of the person presumed to have committed the offence;
  • the relevant enforcement agency;
  • the vehicle registration number (if relevant);
  • the date the notice was issued, the time, date and place the offence occurred;
  • the amount of the penalty;
  • how to pay the penalty;
  • the time limit of the payment (which must be at least 21 days from the date it is issued);
  • a warning about further enforcement options and additional costs that can be applied if the fine is not paid within the stated time limit; and
  • other options for dealing with the fine including applying for a review or entering into a payment arrangement.

Once you have collated all the information and documents you can from the client, you should contact Fines Victoria requesting a current list of all of the client’s outstanding fines.

Fines Victoria is generally able to provide a record of notices of final demand, open court fines and enforcement warrants, as well as a copy of certain infringements and penalty reminder notices. You should check with Fines Victoria if there are particular agencies that they cannot provide the details of and contact those enforcement agencies directly.

You can make a request over the telephone (after providing a copy of your Authority to Act) to obtain these details. However, it is preferable to put the request in writing and send an email to Fines Victoria. Templates are available at How to run a matter.

Fines Victoria will generally respond to this type of a request relatively quickly, providing details of all outstanding notices of final demand, enforcement warrants and court-imposed fines.

Contact details

For many infringement notices or penalty reminder notices, you will need to contact the enforcement agencies directly.

The contact details of the enforcement agencies that Homeless Law clients commonly receive fines from and Fines Victoria are below:

Initial advice at the clinic

At the initial consultation, you should make sure that you give your client in-person advice about the relevant timeframes, risks (including of enforcement) and possible options available. See How to run a matter for an overview.

Advising the client of their options

Once you have obtained details of all of the outstanding fines, you should contact your client to advise them about the current status of their fines and their options. Depending on the circumstances of the client, the best way to communicate this advice may be either by telephone, face-to-face or by letter. Once you have advised a client of their options, you must obtain their instructions on how to proceed.

If your client has already provided you with general instructions on how to proceed, you should then contact the client to advise the current status of their fines and confirm their instructions.

Generally, Homeless Law clients meet the definition of special circumstances and may instruct you to seek:

  • internal review (for infringements and reminders);
  • enforcement review (for notices of final demand/enforcement warrants) on the basis of these special circumstances;
  • application to the Family Violence Scheme (for infringements/penalty reminder notices/notices of final demand/enforcement warrants).

Please keep in mind all applicable limitation periods and key dates involved with these applications.

For fines where withdrawal or enforcement review is not available (for example, open court fines or fines for excessive speeding or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol), other options will need to be discussed with the client (including, for example, a Work and Development Permit or a payment arrangement).

Advising your client about key considerations

When explaining the special circumstances process, please advise your client about the following key considerations before confirming their instructions:

  • Guilty plea and criminal record. If your client wants to make an application for enforcement review based on special circumstances, you must advise them that if the matter proceeds to court, it involves entering a guilty plea. Though this is less likely under the new fines system, enforcement agencies still have the option of taking the matter to court if enforcement review is successful. They have 90 days from Please also advise your client that findings of guilt may show up on criminal record checks. This will be particularly significant for clients with no previous criminal record, clients who may be seeking employment and clients with temporary visa status. Note that there is no risk of going to court for an internal review based on special circumstances.
  • Notification of unsafe drivers. If you make an application for review on the basis of special circumstances for the client, the police or the court are likely to notify VicRoads of any condition disclosed in the application that may affect your client’s ability to drive (eg mental health concerns or substance dependence). This may prompt VicRoads to require tests to be completed to determine the client’s fitness to hold a licence (see s 27 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) (RSA) and r 78(1) of the r 80(1) of the Road Safety (Drivers) Regulations 2019 (Vic) (RSDE). Please ensure you look at the most recent version of the legislation. VicRoads may then require your client to undergo a medical test or assessment (medical review) to confirm that your client can safely drive. The medical review involves a client attending an appointment with their doctor and asking them to complete a VicRoads template report, within one month of receiving notification from VicRoads. We should make clients aware of the risk that if the client has refused or failed to undergo the medical review, VicRoads can vary, suspend or cancel their licence.
  • Demerit points which have accrued for a road safety infringement can be removed if the infringement is withdrawn or where the client is found not guilty of the infringement. However, where your client is successful in proving special circumstances under an internal or enforcement review application, their demerit points will still accrue (ss 73(1)(bb) and s 78 Road Safety (Driver) Regulations 2019). Demerit points also accrue if your client pays for their fines, including by way of payment plan. If there are more than the allowed number of demerit points over a period of time, this may result in your client’s license being suspended. More information about demerit points is available from the VicRoads’ website.
  • Excessive speeding and DUI. For infringements where withdrawal or revocation is not an option (ie fines for excessive speeding (25km/h+) or fines for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol), please discuss other options with your client. These options include:
  1.  Making an application for reduction or waiver of fees under s 9 on the Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic) (FRA) and making an application for a payment arrangement under s 42 of the FRA for the remaining amount (if a payment arrangement is manageable).
  2. Applying for a Work and Development Permit.

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