In response to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout Victoria, on 16 March 2020, the Victorian Minister for Health declared a State of Emergency throughout Victoria using her powers under section 198 of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic). On 2 August 2020, the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, elevated the State of Emergency to a State of Disaster for the whole of Victoria using his powers under section 23(1) of the Emergency Management Act 1986 (Vic). Under both the State of Emergency and State of Disaster, various new powers have been given to the Chief Health Officer of Victoria, or a person they authorise, to make directions that must be followed, the same as other laws. The directions everyone must follow change regularly. To see what directions currently apply, see www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus.
Who can give me a fine?
Different agencies ensure the Chief Health Officer’s directions are followed. Police officers and other authorised people can fine you if you do not follow these directions. Agencies can give you a warning instead of a fine; however, it is up to the relevant agency. If you are fined, you will get an infringement notice.
COVID-19 related penalties frequently change. Current penalties are on the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services’ website (www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus).
What are my options?
Your options for dealing with a COVID-19 related fine are the same as for other fines (see Options 1–9 listed below).
COVID-19 fine reviews
Police say they will review (check) the fines given to people for not following rules related to COVID-19. It is possible that through this process, the police may withdraw (cancel) your fine. However, you cannot be sure police will withdraw your fine, so you should take action before the payment due date.
You can ask for a review of your fine if:
- you think the police officer made a mistake giving you the fine; for example, what you did was not against the law, or the police officer thought you were a different person; or
- there were exceptional circumstances; this means there was something very unusual or special about what happened; or
- you have special circumstances that meant you could not understand or follow the directions; special circumstances include mental illness, intellectual disability, drug addiction, family violence or homelessness (see ‘Special circumstances’, below).
To request a review of your fine, apply online or contact Fines Victoria (see ‘Contacts’, below). You can only ask the police to review your fine once.
The police may agree or refuse to withdraw your fine. Or, the police may withdraw your fine and give you an official warning instead. A warning means that police say what you did is against the law and you must not do it again. If the police do not withdraw your fine, you have a range of options available – see Options 5–9 listed below.
What if I am under 18?
If you were under 18 when you received a fine for not wearing a mask, you will be referred to CAYPINS. If you do not pay your fine, it will go to the Children’s Court and you will be sent a Notice of Court Case. When you get the notice, you have five options:
- pay your fine before the due date on the notice;
- ask for more time to pay the fine;
- ask for the fine to be reduced;
- ask for your hearing to be adjourned;
- ask for your matter to be heard in the Children’s Court if you do not think you should pay the fine.
If your COVID-19 related fine is for breaching the stay at home orders or isolation orders, the CAYPINS process may not be able to be followed. In that case, the police may charge you and require you to attend court (see ‘Appearing in the Magistrates’ Court’, below). This means you risk getting a criminal record.