Special circumstances

If you have a fine and have special circumstances you may be able to have the matter reviewed.

Have you got an unpaid fine but have special circumstances?

You may be able to have your fine withdrawn or cancelled if you had special circumstances that, at the time you were issued with the fine, meant you:

  • didn’t understand your behaviour was against the law
  • couldn’t control your behaviour (even if you knew it was against the law).

Special circumstances include:

  • intellectual disability
  • mental illness or disorder
  • a serious addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • homelessness
  • family violence.

Homelessness can include staying in crisis accommodation, living in transitional housing, couch surfing or sleeping rough.

Requesting a review of your fine

In certain circumstances you can ask the issuing agency to review your fine because there were special circumstances that meant you were unable to understand or control the offending conduct.

Important: If you have received a Notice of Final Demand in addition to the original fine, you can no longer apply for a review. You must contact Fines Victoria on (03) 9200 8222 (metro), 1800 150 410 (regional) or visit Ground Floor, 277 William Street, Melbourne.

How and when to apply for a review

To apply, you’ll need to provide supporting evidence from a qualified practitioner or agency confirming:

  • your condition or circumstance
  • how your condition or circumstances caused you to commit the offence.

If you believe you have special circumstances you should write to the issuing agency and request a review on these grounds. You can also ask a friend or someone you trust to apply on your behalf, with your written approval. The contact details of the issuing agency will be on the fine.

An application must provide your current contact details (name, postal address and telephone number). It must be sent before the due date on the fine or penalty reminder notice.

Important: You are only able to make one application, so seeking legal assistance from a community agency is recommended (see below).

What do you need to provide?

You must provide a statement from your medical practitioner or case worker that explains how your special circumstances meant you could not obey the law. This statement should be less than 12 months old. The agency may accept a report prepared outside the 12 month period if a condition is a lifetime condition (e.g. an intellectual disability).

Who can provide a statement confirming special circumstances?

Statements can be accepted from relevant practitioners, including but not limited to:

  1. In the case of a mental or intellectual condition
    • general practitioner
    • psychologist, psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse
  2. In the case of a serious addiction to drugs or alcohol
    • general practitioner
    • psychologist or psychiatrist
    • case manager
    • accredited drug treatment agency or counsellor
  3. In the case of homelessness
    • case worker or case manager
    • approved agency (e.g. Salvation Army).
    • recognised health or community welfare service provider
  4. In the case of family violence
    • case worker or social worker (e.g. a specialist family violence case worker)
    • financial counsellor
    • health practitioner (e.g. general practitioner, psychologist, psychiatrist, registered occupational therapist)
    • school principal or school welfare coordinator.

Is there any other relevant information?

In relation to homelessness, the statement or letter must:

  • include details of current living arrangements (if any)
  • give details of period of homelessness
  • demonstrate how this circumstance contributed to your receiving an infringement notice
  • provide any additional information that may assist the issuing agency
  • be signed and dated within the last 12 months.

When completing the statement, the following questions must also be addressed:

  1. What are your current living arrangements?
    • How long have you been homeless?
    • Were you homeless at the time of the offence?
  2. Has homelessness resulted in you being unable to control your conduct that constitutes the offence?
    • If so, how did the homelessness contribute to the offences?
    • Do (or did) you suffer from any other illnesses that may be relevant in determining whether you were able to control or prevent the conduct for which the infringement was issued?
    • If so, are you taking medication or undergoing any treatment or rehabilitation?

Information for practitioners and case workers

A statement should include:

  • the practitioner’s or case worker’s qualifications and their relationship with you
  • the nature, severity and duration of your condition or circumstance
  • how your condition affected your inability to understand or control your conduct leading to the offence.

It would also be helpful if the statement included any treatment you have undertaken or are currently undertaking.

What happens next?

If your application is successful, the agency will inform you that your fine (and any related fees) has been withdrawn and that no further action is needed.

If your application does not contain enough information, you may be asked to provide further information by a certain date. If you do not respond, your application will be reviewed based on the information available. If you require an extension, you should contact the issuing agency.

If your application is unsuccessful, the matter will be referred to the Magistrates’ Court. This gives you (or your representative) a chance to present your evidence in front of a Magistrate who can make a decision on your fine. The issuing agency will let you know the court date and advise if you need to do anything.

Who can help?

  • The issuing agency (e.g. Victorian Electoral Commission, local council, Victoria Police) — the agency’s contact details will be on your fine
  • Victoria Legal Aid (external link) — call 1300 792 387.
  • Federation of Community Legal Centres (external link) — call (03) 9652 1500.
  • The Law Institute of Victoria (external link) can help you find a private lawyer — call (03) 9607 9311 (referral service).
  • Fines Victoria (external link) — call (03) 9200 8111 (metro), 1300 369 819 (regional) or visit Ground Floor, 277 William Street, Melbourne.

For more information on fines or the infringements system, visit the Fines Victoria (external link) website.