Victoria Legal Aid

Enforcement warrants and seven-day notices

If you do not pay an infringement warrant on time, the sheriff can issue a seven-day notice to get money or property from you to pay the fine.

If you do not pay an enforcement order on time Fines Victoria will apply to court for an enforcement warrant. The warrant is so a sheriff or police can come to your home to get the money you owe for unpaid fines.

If you cannot pay the full amount of the fine, the sheriff will give you a written seven-day notice.

A seven-day notice is a final warning. It is your last chance to take action to avoid serious penalties.

Do not ignore this notice. You have seven days to act. Get legal advice immediately.

As soon as the enforcement warrant is served, the sheriff or police may:

  • detain, immobilise or sell a motor vehicle
  • remove your number plates.

They can do this even if the seven-day notice has not been served.

What you can do

If you get a seven-day notice, you have seven days from the day you get the notice to pay what you owe.

If you can not afford to pay what you owe, you can apply to Fines Victoria for:

If you do not pay or take any action in the seven days, the sheriff or police will come back to your house. The sheriff can then apply a range of sanctions (penalties) to make you settle what you owe.

If you intend to apply for enforcement review, and you have received a seven-day notice, you will need to act quickly. You cannot apply if the seven-day notice has expired. There are other circumstances in which you cannot apply, these include:

  • if an order for the attachment of your earnings or debts has been made
  • your car has been taken under a ‘vehicle seizure and sale’ notice
  • a charge has been recorded over land you own
  • your fine has been paid.

The sheriff can make you settle what you owe

To make you settle what you owe, the sheriff can:

  • enter your home and search for things that can be taken and sold to pay the fine (this does not include items that you need to live in basic comfort, like your refrigerator or television)
  • put a wheel clamp on your car or other vehicle until you pay the fine
  • suspend your driver’s licence
  • suspend the registration of your car or vehicle – you won’t be able to drive or sell it
  • stop you from being able to renew your driver's licence and motor vehicle registration until you pay the fine
  • sell your house, but only as a last resort.

If you don't have anything that can be sold to pay what you owe, the sheriff can:

  • ask you to work the fine off through a community work permit
  • ask the Infringements Court to take money from your wages, Centrelink payments or other benefits
  • arrest you.

The Fines Victoria websiteExternal Link has more information about sheriffs' sanctions.

Community work permit

If you are arrested by the sheriff for unpaid fines, you may agree to a community work permit to do unpaid community work instead of paying the fines. The number of hours you have to do is worked out from the amount of money you owe. You need to have enough free time to do the work and agree to do it within a limited time.

If you agree to a community work permit you don't have to go to jail. The sheriff will arrest you on the spot and you will be released immediately. You must follow the conditions of the community work permit or the sheriff can return and arrest you again. This time you may go to jail.

You may not be able to do community work because of your age, health, work hours, or because you are caring for family members. If you don’t get a community work permit, or don’t want to apply for one, the sheriff can arrest you.

Taking money from your wages or benefits

If you don’t have enough things to sell to cover what you owe, the sheriff can ask Fines Victoria to decide if you can afford to pay and how much. You will have to give evidence in court about your finances and ability to pay.

If the court believes you can pay the fines, they can order your employer to take money out of your wages or benefits. The court will work out how much your employer will take out of your pay for each instalment until you pay back the money. Taking money from your wages is called an attachment of earnings order.

Being arrested and going to jail

The sheriff can arrest you if you:

  • don't have enough money or property to cover your fine and can't afford to pay by instalments
  • can't get a community work permit.

If you are arrested, you can be:

  • released straight away on bail if you sign an 'Undertaking of bail'
  • taken to jail until a magistrate hears your application for bail. You will see a magistrate within 24 hours.

If you are released on bail, you must go to court at the time and place specified. If you don’t turn up, it is called ‘breach of bail’. This is a serious offence and can carry a penalty of up to two years in prison.

Going to court

After your arrest, you have to go to court to tell the magistrate your side of the story. If your unpaid fines reach this stage, get legal advice immediately.

The magistrate will decide what penalty to give. They can order you to:

  • to do unpaid community work
  • pay the amount you owe but give you extra time to pay
  • pay off the amount bit by bit in instalments
  • send you to jail.

Going to jail

The magistrate can only make an order to send you to jail if there is no other option. They cannot send you to jail if you cannot afford to pay or if you have some other reasonable excuse for not paying.

The amount of time you have to spend in jail is based on how much you owe on the infringement warrant(s). The maximum time you can be jailed for unpaid infringement fines is 24 months.

If the magistrate believes that jail is too harsh or if special circumstances apply to your situation they can:

  • discharge all your fines, which means you do not have to pay any money
  • reduce the fines
  • make an order for you to do unpaid community work to work off the fines
  • make an order that you pay the fines by instalments
  • delay hearing your case for up to six months.

Other support

Find out how you can other support for fines and infringements.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 07 April 2022

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