On 1 January 2010, changes came into effect regarding how the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (“SPER”) can enforce unpaid fines. SPER is the Queensland government department responsible for handling and enforcing fines issued on behalf of the government, such as parking fines or court fines.
The most significant change relates to SPER’s ability to suspend a person’s driver’s licence for fines which are entirely unrelated to driving. An example which will impact many people is the fine imposed following a person’s failure to vote as required. If a person does not vote as he or she is required to, and then fails to pay the resulting fine, that person’s driver’s licence can be suspended by SPER. This is of particular importance as prior to 1 January 2010, SPER could only suspend licences for motor vehicle related fines. If you are then caught driving while SPER-suspended, you face heavy penalties including potentially the disqualification of your driver’s licence (which is much more serious than a suspension of your licence).
Many people will be caught out by these changes to the legislation. It is understandable that the majority of the public would have no idea that their licence could be suspended for not paying a fine which is unrelated to driving and vehicles, but this is nevertheless the law as it currently stands.
The important thing therefore is to ensure that you immediately pay any fines you receive, unless of course you dispute the fine in the first place. If you dispute the fine, you should make sure that you take the relevant steps within the time-frame provided, otherwise you might lose your opportunity to dispute the fine.