COVID-19 and fines
You may get a fine if you are accused of breaking rules about COVID-19 coronavirus. If you get a fine, there are four things you need to know:
- if you cannot pay your fine, you can ask for more time or to pay by instalments (part-payments)
- if you think the fine was wrong or unfair, you can ask for it to be withdrawn (cancelled). If it is not withdrawn, you can challenge the fine in court. That means you ask the court to decide whether you should pay a fine and how much you must pay
- do not ignore your fine. If you ignore your fine, you may have to pay more money. There can be other serious consequences, like having your car wheel-clamped or your property taken and sold to pay for the fine
- if you are not sure about your rights, you can get legal advice. See Get help with fines and infringements.
The Victorian government has declared a state of emergency and given new powers to the Chief Health Officer. The Chief Health Officer, or the person they authorise, can make directions that must be followed, the same as laws.
The directions everyone must follow change regularly. To see what directions apply now, see directions issued by the Chief Health Officer.
It is important to look at the dates in the directions as the rules changed on different dates. If you were fined for something that happened before these directions started, you should check what directions applied then.
Who can give me a fine?
There are different agencies making sure the Chief Health Officer’s directions are followed. Police and other authorised people can fine you if you do not follow these directions.
We say ‘police’ in this information because it is most likely to be the police who give you a fine. However, the same rules and processes apply if you are fined by someone else.
If police think you are not following the directions, they can choose whether to fine you. Police may give you a warning instead of a fine. It is up to the police. If you are fined, you will get a document called an infringement notice.
If you get a fine, you have four options:
- pay the fine by the due date
- agree to pay the fine but ask for more time to pay or ask to pay in instalments (part-payments). See What if I cannot pay on time?
- apply for a work and development permit
- dispute the fine if you think the police were wrong to fine you, you have a reasonable excuse or special circumstances. See What if I do not agree with the fine?
Do not ignore your fine. If you ignore a fine, you may have to pay more money. There can be other serious consequences, like having your car wheel-clamped or your property taken and sold to pay for the fine. See What happens if I ignore my fine?
If you agree with your fine, but cannot pay it on time, you can:
- ask to pay by instalments. This means you pay part of the fine each fortnight or month until you have paid the whole amount. You can apply online to pay by instalments or contact Fines Victoria.
- ask for a payment extension. This means you will have a longer amount of time to pay but will pay the whole amount at once. You can apply online for a payment extension or contact Fines Victoria.
If you have lost some or all of your income because of COVID-19 coronavirus, you may be able to get help from Services Australia (Centrelink).
If you are having trouble with debts and managing your money, you can get help from a free financial counsellor through the National Debt Helpline.
Police say they will review (check) each fine given to people for not following rules about COVID-19 coronavirus. It is possible that police will withdraw (cancel) your fine. However, you cannot be sure police will withdraw your fine, so you should take action before the payment due date. This is usually 21 days from the date police gave you the fine.
You can ask police to review your fine. If you ask for a review, the police have 90 days to review your fine. You do not need to pay the fine while you are waiting for their response. You can ask for a review if:
- you think police made a mistake giving you the fine. For example, what you did was not against the law, or the police thought you were a different person
- you have a reasonable excuse. The law says you are not doing anything wrong if you have a reasonable excuse for not following the directions
- there were exceptional circumstances. That means there was something very unusual or special about what happened
- you have special circumstances that meant you could not understand or follow the directions. Special circumstances include mental illness, intellectual disability, drug addiction, or if you were experiencing family violence or homelessness.
Police may agree or refuse to withdraw your fine. Police may withdraw your fine and give you an official warning instead. A warning means that police say what you did is against the law and you must not do it again. You can only ask police to review your fine once.
If police continue with your fine, you have four options:
- pay your fine by the new due date
- agree to pay the fine but ask for a payment plan. See What if I cannot pay on time?
- apply for a work and development permit
- choose to go to the Magistrates’ Court to challenge the fine. That means you ask the court to decide whether you should pay a fine and how much you must pay. You must do this before the new due date for your fine. You do not need to pay the fine while you are waiting for a court to decide. You can apply online to go to court or contact Fines Victoria. If you go to court, there is a risk that you could get a larger fine or more serious penalty and a criminal record. You should get legal advice before you make this decision. See Get help with fines and infringements.
Do not ignore your fine. If you ignore your fine, you may have to pay more money. If you keep ignoring fines, there can be other serious consequences. For example, you may have to go to court, have your car wheel-clamped or a sheriff can take your property and sell it to pay for the fine.
If you have fines that you have not paid, you may still have options. For example, you may be able to ask a court to revoke (cancel) your fines if you have special circumstances. You may be able to work off your fines by doing counselling or volunteer work. It will depend on your situation.
It is important to get legal advice as soon as possible. See Get help with fines and infringements
If you were under 18 when you got the fine, there is a different process called the Children and Young Persons Infringement Notice System (CAYPINS). If you do not pay your fine, it will go to the Children’s Court and you will be sent a Notice of Court Case.
When you get the notice, you have five options:
- pay your fine before the due date on the notice
- ask for more time to pay
- ask for the fine to be reduced
- ask for your hearing to be adjourned (put off to a later date)
- ask for a magistrate in the Children’s Court to hear your case if you do not think you should pay a fine.
For more information about this process, see Children’s Court of Victoria Infringements and Fines.
If you are not sure about your rights, get legal advice. See Get help with fines and infringements.
For more information about young people’s legal rights, download or order a free copy of Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people.
Learn more about legal issues and COVID-19 coronavirus
Visit our ‘Find legal answers’ page on Fines and infringements
Download or order a free copy of Fines: the law, your options
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