Victoria Legal Aid

Special circumstances

If you can show that you have special circumstances, you can have an enforcement order or infringement warrant cancelled and may not have to pay the fine

You may be eligible to have your fines reviewed if

  • you show you had special circumstances when you broke the law and got a fine, or
  • you cannot deal with your fines because of serious long-term circumstances.

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

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

What are ‘special circumstances’?

Special circumstances at the time of getting your fines

You have special circumstances if you:

  • had a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness, including anxiety and depression
  • had a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or volatile substance – this includes marijuana or alcohol, as well as drugs such as heroin, ice, speed or ecstasy
  • are a victim of family violence
  • were homeless – you were living on the streets, you did not have a stable place to live for a long time or you were couch surfing.

The law says you may not have to pay your fines in full if you were experiencing a special circumstance when you got the fine and you found it difficult to avoid breaking the law. This means you:

  • could not control your behaviour when you broke the law
  • did not understand that you had broken the law.

Long-term circumstances and your ability to deal with your fine

You may also have special circumstances if you can show that you are:

  • experiencing circumstances that are very serious and long-term, that are more than just financial hardship, and
  • due to these circumstances, it is not possible for you to either pay your fines or deal with them in other ways, such as completing activities or treatment under a work and development permit .

When you can apply

If you want to apply you must:

  • have received a Notice of Final Demand from Fines Victoria for unpaid fines
  • accept that you broke the law. This means that, unless the fines are withdrawn, you will have to plead guilty at court and there would be a record of this.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 fines cancelled you must prove to Fines Victoria that you have special circumstances.

Find out about the three steps you need to take to make a special circumstances application.

Going to the Magistrates’ Court

If Fines Victoria decides you have special circumstances, it will cancel enforcement of the fines 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 offences 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.

The magistrate or judicial registrar will decide what happens to your unpaid fines, taking into consideration your special circumstances.

Read more about possible outcomes and penalties at court.

Other support

Find out how you can get 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 08 September 2022

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