Arrest

There are various types of warrants that a court may issue that allow your arrest. This includes where you do not pay a fine that has been previously imposed upon you by a magistrate, or where you have failed to appear before a magistrate when you were supposed to.

The most common types of warrants that may result in the arrest of a person by a sheriff's officer include:

Infringement warrant

If you do not pay your fine and you ignore all reminders, the matter becomes more serious and costly. The Infringements Court may issue an infringement warrant, giving the sheriff power to enforce that warrant.

Sheriff's officers are authorised to arrest you if:

  • you cannot pay the amount outstanding on the infringement warrant(s) or do not enter into a payment arrangement
  • you do not have assets that can be seized and sold, or
  • the sale of all your assets does not raise enough money to pay your infringement warrant(s).  

Once you are arrested, you may be:

  • released on a Community Work Permit (see below for details)
  • released on bail (see below for details)
  • required to appear before the magistrate (see below for details).

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Community Work Permit (CWP)

If you are arrested under an infringement warrant, the sheriff's officer can offer you a Community Work Permit (CWP) if you are eligible for one. A CWP is an agreement to perform unpaid community work instead of paying the fine.

To be eligible for a CWP, the total amount outstanding must be equal to or less than the value of one hundred penalty units (that is, 500 hours of community work). In addition, the sheriff's officer must be satisfied that you have the capacity to perform community work and are willing to meet and are reasonably unlikely to breach the conditions of the permit.

The number of hours of community work you need to do is worked out from the amount of money you owe. If you are offered a CWP and agree to meet and comply with the conditions of the permit, you will be released on the spot (this means you will be released at the place you were arrested). If you are ineligible for a CWP or if you refuse to enter into a CWP, you will be arrested and bailed to appear before a magistrate.

Note:

  • It is an offence to breach the conditions of a community work permit. If found guilty of the offence, the court may impose a fine (not exceeding 10 penalty units).

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Bail

If you are arrested due to an outstanding infringement warrant, you may be offered bail by the sheriff's officer who arrested you. If you are offered bail and you agree to the conditions by signing an 'Undertaking of Bail', you will be released on the spot (this means you will be released at the place you were arrested). An 'Undertaking of Bail' requires you to appear at a particular Magistrates' Court at a specified time so that a magistrate can hear your matter.

Note:

  • Breaching the terms of your bail is a serious offence. If you do not appear at court as required in an 'Undertaking of Bail' you risk severe penalties, which can include a term of imprisonment.

 

If you are not offered bail, or if you refuse to enter into an 'Undertaking of Bail', you will be conveyed to a police station and held until the court can hear your matter.

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Powers of the Court

When you are brought before the court, the magistrate will give you or your representative a chance to speak, and the court may make a range of orders dealing with your unpaid fine.

If the court is satisfied:

  • that you have a mental or intellectual impairment, disorder, disease or illness
  • that special circumstances apply to you, or
  • that your situation means that imprisonment would be excessive, disproportionate or unduly harsh,

then the court may:

  • discharge part or all of the fine
  • discharge part of the fine and order that you be imprisoned for a period equivalent to one day for each penalty unit or part of a penalty unit that remains unpaid (with a maximum jail term of 24 months)
  • make a fine default unpaid community work order, or
  • adjourn (delay) hearing the matter for a period of up to six months.

The court may impose conditions on an adjournment (such as requiring you to do a driver education course or attend counselling). When it resumes the hearing after the adjournment, the court will reconsider the matter and your circumstances.

If the court makes an order discharging the fine in part, the court may make a time to pay or instalment order in respect of the fine remaining unpaid.

If the court is not satisfied of any of the matters referred to above, the court may do one or more the following:

  • make a fine default unpaid community work order
  • make a time to pay or instalment order
  • adjourn (delay) hearing the matter for a period of up to six months
  • order that you be imprisoned for a period equivalent to one day for each penalty unit or part of a penalty unit that remains unpaid (with a maximum jail term of 24 months).

The court must not make an order imprisoning you unless it is satisfied that no other order is appropriate in all the circumstances. Further, the court must not make such an order if you are able to satisfy the court that you:

  • did not have the capacity to pay the fine, or
  • had a reasonable excuse for not paying the fine.

If the court makes an order imprisoning you it may make that order subject to an instalment order.

If you are already serving a jail sentence

If you are already serving a jail sentence, you can "call in" outstanding fines (or convert a fine into prison time) under an infringement warrant by requesting the sheriff to apply to the court for an order that you serve a term of imprisonment in default of payment. This is known as a "time served order".

A request to the sheriff for a time served order may only be made for fines for offences allegedly committed before the date on which you were taken into custody.

For the purpose of making a time served order, the court will count any time you have spent in custody as time served. This includes time spent on remand.

A time served order may be made even if you have been released from custody, as long as the request by the sheriff was made while you were in custody.

If the court makes a time served order, one day in prison will cover one penalty unit (or part of a penalty unit) that you owe. As at 1 July 2017, one penalty unit is $158.57. If you owe $1000, for example, you will serve seven days of prison time in default of payment of that fine.

If your sentence is not a fine related sentence (it is not the result of a default in the payment of a fine), then any time ordered to be served under a time served order will be served at the same time as your existing term of imprisonment. If your term of imprisonment is not adequate to cover the total amount of your outstanding fines, the court may make a range of orders to deal with the excess. These orders include:

  • partially or fully discharging the outstanding fine
  • making a time to pay or instalment order
  • adjourning the matter for up to six months, or
  • ordering you to serve a further term of imprisonment.

The court must not make an order for imprisonment unless it is satisfied that no other order is appropriate in all the circumstances. Further, the court must not make such an order if you are able to satisfy the court that you:

  • did not have the capacity to pay the outstanding fine, or
  • had a reasonable excuse for not paying the outstanding fine.

If your sentence is fine related, any time ordered to be served under a time served order will need to be served in addition to, or on top of, your current term of imprisonment.

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Warrant to arrest - no debt attached

These warrants are issued after you have appeared before a magistrate and did not comply with a court order.

If a warrant to arrest with no debt attached is issued against you, a sheriff's officer may come to your address, arrest you and bring you directly to the nearest police station so you can appear before a magistrate.

At the police station, if you are offered bail and you agree to the conditions by signing an 'Undertaking of Bail', you will be released. An 'Undertaking of Bail' requires you to appear at a particular Magistrates' Court at a specified time so that a magistrate can hear your matter.

 

Warrant to arrest - with debt attached

These warrants are issued after you have appeared before a magistrate and did not comply with a court order. 
 
If a warrant to arrest is issued against you with debt attached, a sheriff's officer may come to your address to demand that you pay the fine (this is an official process called a 'payment demand'). You might also encounter a sheriff's officer at a police roadblock.
 
If you pay the amount outstanding on a warrant to arrest, the matter is finalised.

To pay your warrant to arrest in full, visit the Pay Now section of this website. Alternatively, you can pay the amount outstanding to any sheriff's officer, at a Sheriff's Office location or to Civic Compliance Victoria®.

If you do not pay your fine in full when asked to by a sheriff's officer, you will be arrested, then conveyed and lodged at the nearest police station. Once in police custody, you will either be released on bail to appear before a magistrate or kept in custody until you appear before a magistrate.

If you are offered bail and you agree to the conditions by signing an 'Undertaking of Bail', you will be released. An 'Undertaking of Bail' requires you to appear at a particular Magistrates' Court at a specified time so that a magistrate can hear your matter.

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Warrant to arrest - with debt attached and Fine Default Unpaid Community Work Order (FDO) option

These warrants are issued after you have appeared before a magistrate and did not comply with a court order.
 
If a warrant to arrest is issued against you with debt attached and a Fine Default Unpaid Community Work Order (FDO) option, a sheriff's officer may come to your address to demand that you pay the fine (this is an official process called a 'payment demand'). You might also encounter a sheriff's officer at a police roadblock.

If you pay the amount outstanding on a warrant to arrest, the matter is finalised.

To pay your warrant to arrest in full, please visit the Pay Now section of this website. Alternatively, you can pay the amount outstanding to any sheriff's officer, at a Sheriff's Office location or to Civic Compliance Victoria®.

If you do not pay your fine in full when asked to by a sheriff's officer, you may be issued with a Fine Default Unpaid Community Work Order (FDO) if you consent to the conditions of the order. Where an FDO is issued, you will be required to attend the nominated Community Corrections Service (CCS) office on a pre-determined date to commence your community work.

Note:

  • It is an offence to breach the conditions of a Fine Default Unpaid Community Work Order. If found guilty of the offence, the Court may impose a fine not exceeding 10 penalty units.

 

Where you do not consent to the conditions of the FDO, the sheriff's officer will arrest you, then convey and lodge you at the nearest police station. Once in police custody, you will either be released on bail to appear before a magistrate or kept in custody until you appear before the magistrate.

If you are offered bail and you agree to the conditions by signing an 'Undertaking of Bail', you will be released at the police station. An 'Undertaking of Bail' requires you to appear at a particular Magistrates' Court at a specified time so that a magistrate can hear your matter.

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Warrant to imprison

These warrants are issued after you have appeared before a magistrate and did not comply with a court order.

If a warrant to imprison is issued against you, a sheriff's officer may come to your address to demand that you pay the fine (this is an official process called a 'payment demand'). You might also encounter a sheriff's officer at a police roadblock.

If you pay the amount outstanding on a warrant to imprison, the matter is finalised.

To pay your warrant to arrest in full, please visit the Pay Now section of this website. Alternatively, you can pay the amount outstanding to any sheriff's officer, at a Sheriff's Office location or to Civic Compliance Victoria®.

If you do not pay your fine in full when asked to by a sheriff's officer, you will be arrested, then conveyed and lodged at the nearest police station. Once in police custody, you will be kept in custody until your term of imprisonment is served or the outstanding warrant paid.

 

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