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Electing to challenge fine in court

Explains what may happen if the person chooses to have the fine or infringement notice dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court.

When a person may go to a Magistrates’ Court hearing about their infringement

An adult who has been fined may have the matter dealt with in open court if:

  • they want to challenge the circumstances of the fine
  • the agency that issued the fine prefers the matter be dealt with in court
  • (for a traffic offence) the person who got the fine was not the person who was driving the vehicle at the time the offence happened
  • the Director of Fines Victoria ('director') cancels enforcement of the fine and the agency wants to pursue the matter
  • special circumstances may apply to their situation
  • they have been arrested by the sheriff and have been bailed to appear in the Magistrates’ Court (see Enforcement), or
  • the director refuses to enforce the fine because they believe that the matter would be best dealt with in court.

See ss. 17, 18, 25, 40—Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) and ss. 20, 21, 38—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic).

Agency may refer a fine to court

The agency always has discretion about whether to issue a fine or to charge a person with an offence and have it heard before the Magistrates' Court.

They can also choose to withdraw an infringement notice and refer the matter to the Magistrates' Court if the fine has not been paid. The agency can do this:

  • at any time before registering the fine with the director, or
  • before the time limit expires for starting court proceedings (usually 12 months from date of offence).

Sometimes the agency may choose to do this when a person seeks an internal review of their infringement, but they may also decide to take this action if the person has accrued a large number of unpaid fines from that agency.

See ss. 17, 40—Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) and s.7—Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic).

Risk of electing to attend court instead of paying the fine

The person will have the opportunity to tell their side of the story in court, and the magistrate will ask about the person's financial circumstances and will take these into account when deciding what fine to give. However, they may risk having to pay more. This is particularly risky if they elect a court hearing after receiving the infringement or reminder notice when additional costs are minimal.

See Court costs.

Depending on the kind of offence, they may also be found guilty and convicted by the court. This conviction may have consequences later when the person applies for a job or visa.

What might happen in court

If the matter is heard in the Magistrates’ Court the person who has been fined will have the opportunity to tell their story.

If the court finds the person guilty they will take their financial and other circumstances into consideration when making the decision.

Adjourned undertaking

It is common practice in the special circumstances list for the magistrate to place the person on an adjourned undertaking (a legal promise). If this is done, the person will probably be asked to promise:

  • to be of good behaviour
  • not to reoffend, and
  • to comply with any treatment that they are having.

If they are adjourned on an undertaking the person will be asked to come back to court at a later date so that the magistrate can see if they have kept their promise. The court will make a final decision at the later court hearing and the magistrate will consider how well the person has kept their promise when they are making the decision.

The court may also:

  • cancel fine and all additional statutory costs and penalties
  • make a finding that the person was not guilty.

If part of the fine has been paid

The fine amount must either be refunded or placed in consolidated funds until the outcome of the Magistrates' Court hearing.

Drug/drink driving or excessive speed fines

Fines for excessive speed, drug driving and drink driving are Infringement Convictions. If the person wants to avoid a conviction they must object to the infringement notice or, in the case of an excessive speed infringement, give a statement under section 84BE to an enforcement official.

If this objection is accepted, the infringement conviction is withdrawn and the person is issued with a charge and summons. This is the only process that allows the matter to be heard in court.

See Objecting to an infringement conviction.

More information

Legislation

Infringements Act 2006 (Vic)

  • s. 16—person may elect to have the matter heard in the court or the Children’s Court
  • s. 17—enforcement agency can refer matter to court or Children's Court
  • s. 18—withdrawal of infringement notice
  • s. 25—internal review by agency, may decide to withdraw fine and refer matter to court
  • s. 40—decision to court to court

See Infringements Act 2006 (Vic).

Civil Procedure Act 2009 (Vic)

  • s. 7—time limits for filing a charge sheet

See Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic).

Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)

  • s. 20—director may decide that enforcement of the fine is not appropriate
  • s. 21—enforcement agency may prosecute or withdraw infringement notice
  • s. 38—enforcement agency must withdraw fine if director serves enforcement cancellation (and option to commence proceeding in court)

See Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic).

Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (Vic)

See Magistrates' Court Act 1989 (Vic).

Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)

See Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)—Cancellation or suspension of driver licence.

Updated