Managing unpaid fines in the Magistrates Court

By Catherine O’Bryan

Sometimes the pressures and frantic pace of everyday life can be overwhelming and unpaid debts can quickly build up, including but not limited to traffic fines.

Traffic fines are initially incurred by way of infringement notices related to tollways, speeding infringements or parking fines.

While these fines may initially appear manageable , the longer they remain unpaid the higher the amount increases and , before you know it, you may be facing a substantial debt through unpaid road fines.

What happens when fines remain unpaid?

Along the way you will be invited by the authorities or the court to pay the debt off by way of payment plans. If you have been unable to put a payment plan in place, defaulted on your payment plan or you owe too much for a plan to be put in place, a number of outcomes may occur:

  • The Sheriff will become involved
  • Your vehicle may be seized
  • Your licence may be suspended
  • You may be bailed to appear at your local Magistrates Court to explain why the fines remain unpaid

What is the Court procedure for unpaid fines?

This procedure comes to the court in the form of Enforcement Warrants or Enforcement Orders.

In circumstances where you have defaulted on a payment plan already in place you may be brought to court on an Imprisonment Warrant . In this situation you could potentially be facing gaol . You must answer your bail and explain to the Magistrate why the fines remain unpaid.

Theoretically the Magistrate, under the Infringements Act 2006, can impose an immediate jail term in respect of the unpaid fines. Generally, however, most Magistrates will listen to your reasons as to why you have not managed to pay any or part of the unpaid fines. The Magistrate can, in their discretion (ie. power), reduce or wipe the fines owed.

Under the Infringements Act the Court is entitled to take into account certain factors in reaching its decision.

Each Magistrate in each Court generally has a different way of approaching these unpaid fines and most have their own individual way of dealing with them while still remaining faithful to the law that is applicable in this area.

Galbally & O’Bryan’s approach to unpaid traffic infringements

Our lawyers regularly appear before Magistrates in the suburban and country courts . We have years of experience in court procedure and advocacy and are aware of what most Magistrates require when dealing with these matters.

If you are able to establish that you have suffered hardship or, that you have had health problems, you could be in a position to persuade a Magistrate to reduce or wipe the fines owing.

Generally, Magistrates differ in what is required to establish reduction of fines. Some may require extensive documentary proof, some may require you to give evidence. It can certainly be of assistance to you to know in advance what is required generally by each Magistrate.

What your circumstances are and how your circumstances are presented to the court could be the difference between all or most fines being discharged or a minimal amount being wiped. In some rare instances it may be the difference between why gaol should or should not be imposed .

Should you find yourself in such a situation where you are facing Court for unpaid road fines, you can contact our offices and obtain advice on what is required.

Our aim as your lawyer is to guide you through this difficult time and ultimately appear on your behalf and help make a very stressful situation, slightly less stressful while reaching a suitable outcome for you.

For more information see our criminal and commercial services to see how we can help and contact Catherine O’Bryan.