Do fines go away after seven years?
When a fine is registered with Fines Victoria, it can be enforced at any time and does not expire. If a person takes no action to resolve an outstanding fine, the cost will increase, and an enforcement warrant will eventually be issued. When an enforcement warrant is issued (usually by a sheriff), your options in dealing with the fine become limited.
If you cannot pay the fine or negotiate community work, a sheriff officer can search for and seize your personal property, including your vehicle, to sell to repay the debt. If the debt cannot be recovered, you can be arrested and bailed to appear before a Magistrate for sentencing in a ‘section 165 hearing’ (Fines Reform Act 2014 s 165).
See ‘Infringements‘ for more on the lifecycle of a fine and the options available at each stage of the process.
Statute of Limitations for debt recovery
The Limitations of Actions Act 1958 (Vic) sets a limited amount of time to sue a debtor for actions founded in contract or tort. Most debts arise from simple contracts, and if a judgment has not been entered against the debtor in court, the time limit is 6 years before a creditor is ‘statute barred’ from bringing any action against a debtor to recover the debt. However, if a judgment has been entered against the debtor, the time limit is 15 years from the date on which the judgment became enforceable to recover the debt (Limitations of Actions Act 1958 s 5(4)).
For any other action to recover any penalty, forfeiture, or sum by way of penalty, the time limitation is 2 years from the date on which the cause of action accrued (see Limitations of Actions Act 1958 s 5(5)(a)). However, s 5(b) of the act makes it clear that “penalty” does not include a fine to which a person is liable for conviction of a criminal offence. For most other debts, a creditor must begin court action to recover the debt within 6 years. Infringement penalties (or fines) used to deal with minor criminal and traffic offences are therefore excluded from this 2 year limitation.