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      Criminal Infringement Notices

      A Criminal Infringement Notice, also known as a CIN,  on the spot fine,  or Penalty Notice – is a monetary fine issued by police. They are issued for minor offences, at the discretion of police. CINs are issued in lieu of police charging and arresting, and issuing a Court Attendance Notice.

      Criminal infringement notices are controversial because the discretion to use them rests with the police.  An individual officer can decide whether to issue a CIN or charge you and force you to appear at court. The  benefit of avoiding court can be immeasurable to some as it generally means you avoid having a conviction on your record.

      When can’t a criminal infringement notice be issued?

      There are some situations where a criminal infringement notice cannot be issued. They can’t be issued to anyone under the age of 18 and they cannot be issued in the following circumstances:

      • Industrial disputes
      • Genuine demonstrations or protests
      • Processions
      • Organised assemblies

      What offences can a criminal infringement notice be issued for?

      Criminal infringement notices can be issued for a variety of offences including:

      • Shoplifting (under $300 in value)
      • Goods in Custody
      • Offensive Conduct
      • Offensive Language
      • Obstructing traffic
      • Unauthorised entry of vehicle or boat
      • Continuation of intoxicated and disorderly behaviour following move on direction

      Is a criminal infringement notice a criminal record?

      A CIN is not a criminal conviction unless you elect the fine to be heard at court. A conviction at court will result in a criminal conviction on your record.

      Paying an on-the-spot fine means the matter is resolved. It is also not regarded as an admission of liability.

      As there are numerous types of criminal background checks it cannot be said with 100% certainty that a CIN will not show up. The type of record obtained for employment and travel purposes does not contain any information about criminal infringement notices. Paying a criminal infringement notice means you can still say “no” if you’re asked if you have been charged or convicted of an offence.

      NSW Police are able to conduct a specific Criminal Infringement Notice History check. Naturally, any CIN that you have paid will show up on this. This would be relevant if you were charged with further offences or if you were applying for bail.

      How to contest a criminal infringement notice?

      If you receive a penalty notice and do not wish to pay it you can ask to have it reviewed by NSW Police or Revenue NSW. You can also elect to have the matter determined at court. At court you can either plead not guilty or plead guilty with an explanation and ask the court to impose a lesser penalty in light of the surrounding circumstances.

      Making an election to go to court is not something to be done lightly. Going to court means that the matter is no longer just a fine. If you are found guilty of the offence the court has the power to convict you. A conviction will appear on your criminal record for at least 10 years, despite the matter having started as a criminal infringement notice.

      Advantages and disadvantages

      The main advantage of a CIN is that police spend less time on paperwork. Most people also prefer to pay a fine than having to attend court. Further, the payment of the fine does not result in a criminal conviction.

      The disadvantages include that the fine must be paid within 21 days or further penalties may apply. Where a CIN is sent by mail, it is also quite common that it does not reach the person and an enforcement order can come into effect.

      Expanding criminal infringement notices

      The NSW Government has recently suggested a bill be put before parliament, which would give police the power to issue criminal infringement notices for offences such as drug possessionlow range drink driving, and driving with a prescribed illicit drug in your system. This would mean people caught for these offences have a better chance to  avoid court and avoid a criminal conviction.

      What if I’ve received a criminal infringement notice?

      If you or someone you know has received a criminal infringement notice it is important to seek legal advice. Depending on the nature of your case there may be defences available to you. Because electing to have the matter heard at court means you risk a criminal conviction you should speak to a specialist criminal lawyer as soon as possible.

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