Fines and infringements can be costly.
There are a number of different government organisations that can issue fines in a variety of circumstances, including Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), local courts and other government agencies.
Traffic infringements and parking fines are common and the cost, even for a relatively minor infringement, can be high.
If you have committed a traffic offence, or it is alleged that you have, you will be sent an infringement notice through the mail from the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO).
The SDRO undertakes all the administration and processing of fines issued by the RMS and other government agencies.
If you have an outstanding debt with the SDRO, you have a number of different options available to you.
Paying the fine
If you accept the charges against you, you can pay the amount required and the matter will be finalised.
In situations where you may be facing financial hardship or are otherwise unable to pay your fine off at once, you can pay in instalments or through Centrepay if you are receiving Centrelink benefits.
The SDRO can grant extensions on the payment deadline in certain circumstances, so if you are unable to pay by the due date, you can request a later date to pay the amount in full.
If you need time to pay your fine or you want to pay in instalments, as long as you contact the SDRO and make arrangements in time, and you keep up with your payments where applicable, no further action will be taken against you.
Disputing the fine
When you have received a traffic infringement notice or other fine in the mail and you don’t agree with either the alleged infringement or the amount you are required to pay, you can dispute the fine.
It is highly advisable to seek advice from an experienced criminal lawyer before you dispute a fine, as they can assess the evidence and give you a realistic idea of what the outcome might be.
If you want to dispute a traffic fine you can request a review.
You will need to submit a form and attach any relevant documentation to support your case before the due date on the penalty notice.
Your application will be assessed against certain criteria, including the severity of the alleged offence, any previous offences or infringements, any extenuating circumstances and any other supporting evidence you can provide including photographic evidence.
Once you have requested the review, you will hear back in writing, usually within 20 days, once the outcome of your application has been decided.
Disputing a fine in court is a more lengthy process.
If you have already requested a review of your fine it is best to await the outcome before electing to have the matter dealt with in court, as once the SDRO receives a notice that you want to have your fine heard in court, they will automatically cancel the review.
To dispute traffic or other fines in court, you will need to file a request to have the matter dealt with in court, and the request must be received by the SDRO before the due date.
Once your application has been received and processed you will receive a Court Attendance Notice (CAN) in the mail.
This will have the information about your court date and time and which court you will need to appear at.
It is important that you turn up to your court appearance, or the matter will be decided in your absence. It is a good idea to speak to a lawyer before you attend court and gather all the evidence you can to strengthen your case, even if you plan to plead guilty.
At court you will be asked whether you plead guilty or not guilty.
If you plead guilty the matter may be finalised that day.
If you choose to plead not guilty, you will be given a further date for your hearing and the matter will be finalised then.
If you do not wish to attend court personally, you lawyer can attend on your behalf and obtain a hearing date which is suitable to both you and your lawyer.
Applying for a work and development order
If there is a reason you can’t pay your fine and it’s unlikely that you will be able to pay by instalments, you may be eligible for a work and development order.
A work and development order is where you fulfil certain work requirements for eligible organisations as a way to pay off your debt.
If you are under extreme financial hardship, have a cognitive impairment, a mental illness, or if you have serious drug or alcohol addiction, a work and development order can be a way for you to pay off your debts without having to go further into financial difficulties or risk having your driver’s licence and registration cancelled.
Whether or not you are eligible for a work and development order depends on a number of criteria, and your application will have to be supported by a medical practitioner or other eligible professional or organisation.
A work and development order does not just cover working activities, depending on your circumstances you may also be able to study or attend counselling or rehabilitation programs in lieu of paying your fines.
If you have been given a work and development order, it is important that you comply with the terms if you want to avoid further action from the SDRO.
It is important not to ignore a notice from the SDRO, even if you aren’t able to pay the fine.
Failure to pay fines can lead to further legal action and increased costs as well as the cancellation of your driver’s licence and registration.
Having a debt can be daunting, but there are a number of options available to help you reduce the stress, pay your fines and move on with your life.