This website is for use by legal professionals (lawyers and law practices) only. If the information is used incorrectly, you could risk losing money or your legal rights. If you are a member of the public looking for free advice about your legal problems please visit legalaid.vic.gov.au, or contact our Legal Help advice line on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. 

If you decide to use or rely on the information or make decisions based on the information in this website (which VLA does not recommend) VLA is not liable to you or any third party in any way for any loss, damage, costs or expenses you or they may suffer or incur as a result.

Sanctions against property

Information about executing an enforcement warrant that involves taking and selling property or deducting money from wages.

After the Director of Fines Victoria ('the director') issues a notice of final demand the person fined has 21 days to take action to pay off the fine and extra costs that have accumulated. After issuing this notice of final demand the director can apply various sanctions that aim to get the person fined to take action to pay. At this stage the person who is fined is referred to as a 'fine defaulter'. The director may choose one or more of these sanctions. The director may act on one outstanding fine, or multiple fines. These sanctions can be taken in relation to a registered infringement or registered court fine.

After an enforcement warrant is issued the sheriff can also apply sanctions to encourage the fine defaulter to take action.

For details of the enforcement process see Enforcement and for sanctions after 7-day notice see Execution of enforcement warrants.

Fine defaulter

A fine defaulter is a person who has been served with a notice of final demand and has not taken any action to sort out their fine (such as a payment arrangement or enforcement review). It also includes a person who has been unsuccessful in applying for a payment arrangement or enforcement review. It can include a company director.

See s. 3—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Action the director may take

After serving the person who has defaulted on their fines (both registered court or infringements) a notice of final demand the director may:

There is not need for the director to wait 21 days after serving this notice of final demand before they take this action.

Actions the sheriff or police may take

After the enforcement warrant has been issued to the fine defaulter, the sheriff or police have a number of sanctions they can use aginst the fine defaulter. (The director can apply to a court registrar for an enforcement warrant to be served on a fine defaulter if the notice of final demand has been served on the person and the person took no action to pay the outstanding money within 21 days.)

These actions can be taken in addition to other sanctions made by the director and whether or not a 7-day notice has been served.

Sheriff or police may:

After a 7-day notice has been issued the sheriff or police may:

  • enter and search a residential address or business for personal property
  • seize and sell personal property found.

See Parts 10, 11, 12—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and for details of the post 7-day notice sanctions see Execution of enforcement warrants.

Direction to provide information or oral examination

The director may make a 'production of information direction' to a fine defaulter. This direction will ask the person to provide specific information within a specified time limit. The details of the information that can be asked is set out in the regulations. It includes information about:

  • where they are renting
  • any previous aliases they have used
  • where they have lived for the past 5 years
  • how many dependents they have
  • if they are working and where
  • weekly expenses
  • any property or other assets they own
  • any money that is owed to them, and
  • any businesses they have an interest in.

The director can also direct the person to attend a certain place to answer questions about their financial circumstances.

The purpose of this direction is to find out the financial circumstances of the fine defaulter. This information can be used to help the sheriff decide what action to take after the 7-day notice is issued and for the director to decide what other enforcement action may be appropriate.

See r. 14—Fines Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic) and ss. 59, 61—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

If the person fails to comply

The director may apply to the Magistrates' Court for a summons for the fine defaulter to produce information and attend for an oral examination if they fail to comply with the initial direction. If the person fails to comply with this summons, they may be arrested and brought before the court.

See ss. 62, 63, 64—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Offence

It is an offence for the person to fail to comply with the requirement to provide information without having a reasonable excuse.

The maximum penalty is 60 penalty units.

See s. 60—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Actions against driver's licence or vehicle registration

After serving a notice of final demand, the director may also decide to take action against a driver's licence if the person has defaulted on their fines. They may direct VicRoads:

  • to suspend the driver's licence of a fine defaulter
  • to suspend the registration of a vehicle registered to the fine defaulter
  • not to register a vehicle in the name of a fine defaulter
  • not to renew the registration of a vehicle registered to the fine defaulter, and/or
  • not to transfer the registration of a vehicle belonging to the fine defaulter.

The fine(s) offences that caused the trouble need not have been related to driving for these sanctions to be imposed.

See s. 89—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and ss. 9AA, 9AC, 9AE,19A, 24(1A)—Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

If a person gets more fines

Extra fines can be added to these sanctions. For example, if the director takes enforcement action against a person's licence following the registration of 2 speeding fines, and then later the director registers 2 more fines against the fine defaulter (one for 'not picking up after a dog', and another for 'using a mobile phone while driving) these later fines can be added to the director's sanctions against the fine defaulter's licence or registration.

See s. 90—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

If the vehicle is registered to a business

The director must direct VicRoads to take reasonable steps to transfer the registration of a vehicle to a natural person or body corporate.

If a fine defaulter is the registered operator of a vehicle and the they are or become a deregistered body corporate, the director may direct VicRoads to cancel the registration of that vehicle.

See ss. 94, 95—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

When do the driver and vehicle sanctions end?

The director has to direct VicRoads to cease applying vehicle or driver sanctions if:

  • the fine(s) are paid in full
  • the fine defaulter enters a payment arrangement with the director
  • the director makes an attachments of debt or earnings direction
  • enforcement is cancelled after an enforcement review
  • sufficient property is seized to cover the outstanding amount
  • the fine defaulter is arrested
  • all outstanding enforcement warrants are recalled and cancelled, or
  • the director considers the sanctions are no longer appropriate.

See ss. 91, 92—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Other suspensions not affected

If the director tells VicRoads to cease the driver or vehicle sanctions, this has no effect on any other licence or vehicle suspensions that have been made. For example, if a driver's licence has been suspended for an excessive speed offence, and their licence was also suspended under the sanctions for defaulting on their fine, the suspension for the excessive speed offence will stay in place, even if the other suspension is lifted by the director and VicRoads.

See s. 92—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Attachments of earnings direction

If the amount of outstanding fine(s) and additional costs is $1000 or more the director can make an attachment of earnings direction. Once this direction has been made, it will stand even if the amount outstanding falls below this $1000 threshold. Before making this direction the director may ask for more details about the fine defaulter's financial circumstances. If the fine defaulter does not respond within time, the director may make a decision without having the additional information.

The person who is in default may also elect to apply for an attachment of earnings order as a way of dealing with their outstanding fines. The benefit of doing this is that once a direction is in place, all other sanctions are suspended.

See ss. 65, 66, 67, 77—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and r. 6—Fines Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Some income is protected

Not all earnings are included. Centrelink and Workcover benefits are excluded.

Application on hardship grounds

After being served with a notice of an attachment of earnings direction, a fine defaulter may apply to the director asking that the direction be varied, suspended or cancelled. To succeed in this application the person will need to prove that the direction would cause them to suffer acute financial hardship or that because of the direction, their level of income would fall below the prescribed amount.

What is the prescribed amount?

The fine defaulter must satisfy the director that an attachment of earnings direction will fall below 75% of the maximum fortnightly basic rate of Newstart allowance. This rate applies to a person who is partnered, is over 21 and has no dependent children.

See s. 68—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and r. 18—Fines Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Employer's responsibilities

The employer must:

  • not discriminate against the employee or dismiss them because an earnings direction has been made, and
  • take all reasonable steps to comply with the direction
Penalties

If an employee fails in their responsibilities they may be fined up to 60 penalty units.

See ss. 72, 73—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Attachment of debt direction

If the person in default owes at least $100 in fines and additional costs, the director may make an attachment of debts direction. This direction compels a third party (such as a bank) to pay money to the director. This could be bank interest or credit in a person's bank or building society account. This third party is called a garnishee.

The garnishee or fine defaulter can dispute liability to pay. They have 14 days to do this.

Once a direction is made, all other enforcement action against the fine defaulter must be suspended.

Garnishee's responsibilities

Once this direction is made the garnishee must deduct the amount specified in the direction and make a payment to the director within 2 days of the deposit being made. They are responsible for ensuring that the fine defaulter is not able to access the money before it is deducted.

Penalties

The penalties for failing to comply with this are up to 60 penalty units.

See ss. 78, 79, 80—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) r. 5—Fines Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Charges over land

If the amount of the outstanding fine(s) and extra costs is $2000 or more the director may serve a notice on the fine defaulter warning them that if the person takes no action they will apply a charge over property that they own (or co-own). The director must wait for 7 days after giving this warning.

If land is charged, then the amount of the outstanding fine will be registered on the property under the Transfer of Land Act. This means that if the property is sold that the director has priority over the owner for the amount outstanding from the proceeds of the sale.

See ss. 95—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and r. 20—Fines Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Removing the land charge

The director must apply to Registrar of Titles to remove the land charge if:

  • the outstanding amount is paid
  • the person owing the fine dies
  • (if body corporate) if body corporate becomes deregistered
  • the director believes that it is no longer appropriate for the land charge to remain, or
  • land charge should be removed for some other reason.

The director will advise the land owner if the charge is removed.

See ss. 98, 100—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Sale of land

If the notice of intention to place a charge over property is served on the fine defaulter and 14 days have elapsed since this notice was served, the director may apply to the Supreme Court for a land sale order.

See ss. 102, 105—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Action the sheriff may take

These sanctions can be taken the sheriff or sometimes by police during the enforcement stage. The sanctions apply to both registered court fines and infringements where an enforcement warrant has been issued.

Detention, immobilisation or sale of a motor vehicle

Detention, immobilisation and seizure

If a motor vehicle is registered to a person who has outstanding enforcement warrants, the sheriff or police may detain or immobilise a vehicle. This is usually done by applying a wheel clamp, although they may organise for the vehicle to be towed to a more convenient and secure location. If this happens, the cost of detention will be added to the amount of the fine.

The power to seize, immobilise and detain includes the power to direct a driver to stop and hand over the keys. Number plate recognition technology may be used to do this. This allows the sheriff or police to detect and immobilise a number of vehicles quickly by pointing the device at a lane of passing traffic.

See ss. 126, 127, 128, 129—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Power to break and enter

The sheriff or police may also break and enter a vehicle (using reasonable force) so they can move it. If keys can't be obtained the sheriff is empowered to dismantle any locking device and start the vehicle without keys.

See ss. 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Entry to property

In order the gain access to a vehicle belonging to a fine defaulter the sheriff or police have the power to enter:

  • any private property that is occupied by the fine defaulter
  • other private property if they get permission from the owner or occupier, or
  • any public place.

They are not allowed to break in to property to gain access to the vehicle at this enforcement warrant stage.

If the vehicle is immobilised or seized and towed away while unattended, the sheriff or police must leave a notice explaining that the vehicle is detained and giving the sheriff's contact details.

See ss. 127(e), 130—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Getting the vehicle back

The sheriff or police officer must release the vehicle if any of the following happens within 7 days:

  • all outstanding costs (including costs of detention, immobilisation or impoundment) are paid in full
  • fine defaulter enters into a payment arrangement (and has either paid a deposit or started making regular payments)
  • an attachment of earnings or debt direction is made
  • enforcement review, which results in the enforcement of the fine being cancelled
  • enough property is seized to pay for the amount of outstanding costs
  • the fine defaulter is arrested
  • the enforcement warrant is recalled and cancelled, or
  • the sheriff believes that it is appropriate to release the vehicle.

A third party may take possession of the vehicle (up until the time when the vehicle is sold) if they provide satisfactory evidence of their identity and their entitlement to possess the vehicle.

See ss. 131, 133, 134—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and r. 27—Fines Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Low value vehicle

The Act specifically removes the protection under s. 42 Supreme Court Act 1986 (which limits the property that is available for distribution to creditors when a person becomes bankrupt). This means that the sheriff is able to seize vehicles regardless of their value. See Property that the sheriff cannot take.

However, the sheriff may choose not to take, or may return a vehicle to the registered operator if it is not worth much money.

See s. 134, 136—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and s. 42—Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

When vehicle may be sold

If the amount outstanding under the enforcement warrant is not paid after 7 days, the sheriff may seize and sell the vehicle and any items left inside. At least 14 days before selling the vehicle the sheriff must serve a 'Vehicle seizure and sale notice' on the registered operator of the vehicle. The sheriff must also publish a 'Notice of intention to sell' in state newspaper (such as the Herald Sun or The Age).

If the vehicle is sold the money gained from the sale will be distributed in the following order of priority:

  • cost of the sale (for example advertising and detailing the vehicle)
  • cost of detention, immobilisation, seizure or impoundment
  • discharge of security interest over the vehicle
  • amount outstanding under the enforcement warrant
  • registered operator if entitled to it (or person who was entitled to it)
  • according to the balance according to the Unclaimed Money Act 2008.

See ss. 132, 135—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and r. 28—Fines Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Removing number plates

The sheriff or a police officer may remove number plates if an enforcement warrant has been issued (regardless of whether a 7-day notice has been served). If number plates are removed the sheriff or police must attach a notice to the windscreen explaining that the plates have been removed and giving the sheriff's contact details. The sheriff will keep the plates for safekeeping.

If plates are removed the sheriff must let the director know. The director will then advise VicRoads. The director may also direct VicRoads to suspend the registration of this vehicle.

The plates will be returned by the sheriff if:

  • the registered operator enters a payment arrangement (and has paid a deposit or started to make payments)
  • an attachment of earnings or debt direction is made
  • an application for enforcement review results in cancellation of the enforcement
  • enough property is seized to satisfy the debt
  • the person is arrested
  • enforcement warrant is recalled and cancelled, or
  • the sheriff thinks it is appropriate to return the number plates

See ss. 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145—Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Fines Reform Ac 2014 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines a 'fine defaulter' as someone who has received a notice of final demand from the director
  • s. 23—notice of final demand
  • Part 6—Oral examination and production of information
    • s. 59—director may direct person to produce information
    • s. 60—offence not to comply with production of information direction
    • s. 61—use of information obtained
    • s. 62—director may apply to court for a summons
    • s. 63—summons for oral examination and production of information
    • s. 64—what happens if person does not attend oral examination
  • Part 7—Attachments of earnings and debt directions
    • s. 65—when an attachment of earnings can be made
    • s. 66—notice of direction to be served on a fine defaulter
    • s. 67—director may ask for information
    • s. 68—protected level of income
    • s. 72—compliance with an attachment of earnings
    • s. 73—employee not to be prejudiced
    • s. 77—enforcement action suspended if attachment of earnings direction is made
  • Part 8—Driver and vehicle sanctions
    • s. 88—application
    • s. 89—sanctions that can be applied against driver or registered operator of vehicle
    • s. 90—what happens if further fines are added
    • s. 91—when vehicle and driver sanctions end
    • s. 92—other suspensions are not affected
    • s. 94—cancellation of registration if body corporate becomes deregistered
    • s. 95—vehicle in the name of a business
  • Part 9—Charges over land
    • s. 95—director may serve notice of intention over land and sale of real estate
    • s. 96—when land charge can be recorded
    • s. 98—removal of land charge
    • s. 100—director will let owner know if charge is removed
    • s. 102—power to sell land
    • s. 105—how the proceeds of sale are divided
  • Part 11—Detention, immobilisation and sale of motor vehicles
    • s. 127—detention or immobilisation of motor vehicles
    • s. 128—powers to detain immobilise and seize
    • s. 129—power to tow
    • s. 130—notice to be provided on detention or immobilisation
    • s. 131—recovery of motor vehicle by registered operator within prescribed period
    • s. 132—vehicle seizure and sale
    • s. 133—recovery of vehicle by 3P before sale
    • s. 134—sheriff may return motor vehicle or items of low monetary value
    • s. 135—application of proceeds of sale
    • s. 136—section of the Supreme Court Act 1986 does not apply
    • s. 138—offence to tamper with or remove means used to immobilise motor vehicle
  • Part 12—Removal of number plates
    • s. 140—power to remove number plates
    • s. 141—notice to be provided if plates removed
    • s. 142—director must let VicRoads know
    • s. 143—VicRoads must immediately suspend registration of motor vehicle if directed by director
    • s. 144—number plates to be kept in safe custody
    • s. 145—return of number plates

See Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Fines Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic)

    • r. 5—attachment of debts threshold is $100
    • r. 6—attachment of earnings threshold is $1000
  • Part 4—Oral examination and production of information
  • Part 5—Attachment of earnings direction
    • s. 18—protected level of income
  • Part 6—Charges over and sale of land
    • r. 20—if outstanding fine is $2000 or more a charge can be placed over land
    • r. 21—what must be included in the notice to charge land
    • r. 22—what must be included in the notice to sell land
    • r. 27—vehicle must be released if fine defaulter takes action within 7 days
    • r. 28—vehicle may be seized and sold if fine defaulter takes no action within 7 days

See Fines Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic)

  • s. 42—property available to satisfy a judgment debt

See Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Road Safety Act 1989 (Vic)

  • s. 9AA—suspension of motor vehicle or trailer registration
  • s. 9AC—direction not to grant or renew registration
  • s. 9AE—non-transfer of registration
  • s. 19A—direction not to grant or renew licence
  • s. 9AC—direction not to grant or renew registration
  • s. 24(1A)—suspension of licence or permit when directed by director
  • s. 24(1B)—when suspension of licence or permit ends

See Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Unclaimed Money Act 2008 (Vic)

  • s. 1—purpose
  • s. 11—businesses to keep unclaimed money register
  • s. 28—unclaimed money register

See Unclaimed Money Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Updated