COVID-19 and fines

COVID-19 and fines

Police may give you a fine if they say you broke laws about the 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  • if you think the fine was wrong or unfair, you can ask for it to be withdrawn (cancelled). If it is not withdrawn, you can challenge the fine in court.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.

Why was I fined?

The Victorian government has declared a state of emergency and given new powers to the Chief Health Officer. The Chief Health Officer can make directions that must be followed, the same as laws. Police can fine people who do not follow these directions. Police fine people by giving them a document called an infringement notice.

The directions everyone must follow change regularly. To see what directions apply now, see Directions issued by the Chief Health Officer. These include stay at home and stay safe directions telling people when they can leave their homes. 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.

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.

What are my options?

If you get a fine, you have four options:

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?

What if I cannot pay on time?

If you agree with your fine, but cannot pay it on time, you can:

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.

What if I do not agree with the fine?

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.

You can apply online to request a review or contact Fines Victoria.

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:

What happens if I ignore my fine?

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

What if I am under 18

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

More information

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

Where to get help

See Get help with fines and infringements

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