Exceptional circumstances

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Exceptional circumstances

You may be eligible to have your fine reviewed if you can show you had exceptional circumstances when you broke the law and got a fine.

You will need to ask Fines Victoria to review enforcement of your fine. This is called ‘enforcement review’.

If you are successful on review, Fines Victoria will cancel enforcement and send your fine back to the agency that fined you. The agency may then withdraw your fine, issue a warning or commence proceedings to enforce your unpaid fine in the Magistrates’ Court. If the court finds that you had exceptional circumstances, they may waive the fine or significantly reduce the penalty.

What are ‘exceptional circumstances’?

The law says that the behaviour for which a fine was issued should be excused where ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist.

There is no definition of exceptional circumstances, but it is intended to cover circumstances leading up to an offence which are out of the ordinary, unavoidable or unexpected. For example, you may be able to show exceptional circumstances where a medical emergency or motor vehicle breakdown resulted in you receiving a fine.

What are 'special circumstances'?

‘Special circumstances’ are different to exceptional circumstances. Special circumstances mean you couldn’t control the behaviour, or understand the unlawful behaviour, because:

  • you had a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness at the time of the fine
  • or you had a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or volatile substance at the time of the fine
  • or you were a victim of family violence at the time of the fine
  • or you were homeless at the time of the fine.

If there were special circumstances you should instead apply to Fines Victoria for enforcement review on the grounds of special circumstances.

For more information to guide you through this process, see How to make a special circumstances application.

If you are a victim of family violence, you may also be able to apply under the Family Violence Scheme. Read more about the Family violence scheme.

When you can apply

If you want to apply you must:

  • have received a notice of final demand from Fines Victoria for your unpaid fine
  • accept that you broke the law. This means that, unless the fine is withdrawn, you will have to plead guilty at court and there would be a record of this.

If you think you did not break the law, for example, you were not driving the car at the time of the fine, get legal help.

How to apply

When a fine is not paid, Fines Victoria can take action against you. This is called ‘enforcement’. 

To have enforcement of your fine cancelled you must prove to Fines Victoria that you had exceptional circumstances at the time of the fine. 

Step 1 – Request a list of fines

Write to or visit Fines Victoria to ask for a list of all your unpaid fines. Fines Victoria may take a few weeks to get back to you. Depending on the fines you have, you may also be able to get a list of your unpaid fines online from Fines Victoria.

Step 2 – Get supporting documents

When making an exceptional circumstances application to Fines Victoria, it is important to provide documents (or other evidence) in support of your application. Supporting documents need to establish that the conduct for which the fine was issued should be excused because of exceptional circumstances.

For example, if you received a fine because of a medical emergency then you could get a letter from the doctor or hospital confirming the circumstances. If your car broke down, then you could provide receipts from a towing service and/ or a mechanic.

If you are experiencing financial hardship, then you may also wish to provide some evidence of your financial situation – such as bank statements, current bills or letters from your creditors or financial counsellor (if you have one). It is important to note that financial hardship is not enough on its own to be considered exceptional circumstances, but it is a factor that can be taken into account.

Step 3 – Apply for an enforcement review

Once you have got a list of your fines, and any documentation to support your application, you can ask Fines Victoria to review the decision by the agency to issue the fine. This process is called ‘enforcement review’.

Fines Victoria will determine whether, given your circumstances, it is appropriate to take action to enforce the fine.

Download our sample letters

To make this process easy for you, we have provided samples letters for you. Download How to apply for a review of your fine if you have exceptional circumstances (docx, 191.98 KB)

Going to the Magistrates’ Court

If Fines Victoria decides you have exceptional circumstances, it will cancel enforcement of the fine and refer the matter back to the agency that fined you. The agency may decide to withdraw the fine and/or issue an official warning instead. However, the agency may also withdraw the fine and decide to proceed against you by way of charge and summons. 

If this happens, the offence will be referred to the Magistrates’ Court to be dealt with as a criminal offence. 

If your matter is referred to court you will get a charge and summons telling you when to go to court.

Read more about going to court about your special circumstances.

You should take copies of all the documents you provided to Fines Victoria to court. You should give these documents to the magistrate and explain that you applied for exceptional circumstances enforcement review.

The court will consider this information when making a decision about your sentence and what happens to your unpaid fine.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with fines and infringements.

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