[Section 3] Know Your Rights: Handling Ticket Inspectors

What inspectors can fine you for


While fare evasion is the number one reason for a fine, an inspector can fine you for a number of reasons:

  • Not having a valid ticket (in transport or in stations/platforms)
  • Placing feet on chairs/seats
  • Consuming alcohol or carrying an open container of alcohol
  • indecent language
  • offensive gestures
  • behaving in a disorderly or offensive manner
  • forcing doors open/interfering with the doors in any way
  • littering
  • smoking (including train platforms, tram, and bus shelters)
  • travelling with part of your body outside a vehicle in motion

*Note: This list includes many but not all actions you can be fine for. For the full list, click here: http://www.dtpli.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/221746/2014-15-Public-Transport-Infringements-and-Court-Penalties.pdf

Travelling without a valid ticket

Failing to have a valid ticket is not  a criminal offence. This is actually classified as a traffic offence (together with not paying a parking meter, etc.). Fines which do not proceed to a conviction in court do not appear in any criminal records.

Read more about what does/doesn’t appear in your criminal record here:


It is important to note that not having a valid ticket in a station/platform even if you have not travelled is an offence. For example, if you went in a station to use the bathroom without validating your ticket, inspectors can fine you for it even without the use of a tram, train, or bus.

Paying a Penalty Fare (On-the-spot)

The preferred option for tram inspectors is to convince passengers to pay a penalty fare. While no exact figures are released, it has been mentioned that a large amount of “pay-it-later” fines are later contested by customers. This leads to a large cost for Yarra Trams- not to mention that a large amount of these fines fail to hold in court (more on this in the next section: contesting a fare).

On The Spot Ticket

To extract a penalty fare, customers need to have a valid credit-card with them on board. Tram inspectors do not accept cash or any other type of payment. It has also been mentioned that some offences do not allow for this option. Namely, this includes when the passenger:

  • is committing a behavioural offence (e.g. feet on seats).
  • is committing multiple offences at the same time.
  • is committing a serious fare evasion offence (such as fraud or producing a counterfeit ticket)
  • is under 18 years (Note that the fare evasion fine for under-18s is $74).
  • is outside the metropolitan area

Read more here: http://ptv.vic.gov.au/penaltyfares/

A penalty fare is also referred to as an “on-the-spot” fine, but it is technically not a fine. This is an important distinction. As it is officially classified as a “fare” type and not a “fine”, it cannot be contested. You are paying for a more expensive tram ticket, rather than being penalised for not having a ticket.

Read more about the $75 Penalty Fare:



Purchasing a “penalty fare” means you do not have to give your name, address, or other contact details. Essentially, you have just bought a $75 ticket. As such, penalty fares are not kept in any records.

At the time of writing, this is still under the 12-month trial introduction of this fare. It can only be found in the city, and the nature/requirements of this may change in the coming months.

Giving Contact Details

A tram inspector will ask for two things: your name and your address. To combat false addresses, which happens quite often, they will demand proof of your address. The best proof would be your driver’s license or any official card with your name and address on it. If unavailable, they will ask that you show them an email which has these details or access your bank account online to obtain a bank statement with these details. Failing that, they may ask passengers travelling with you separately for your details, or ask to call someone with whom they can confirm your details. If you do not have these options available for whatever reason, it is up to the inspector whether to accept what you say or arrest you until they can make sure the address is correct.

A commuter who refuses to give details may be put under “arrest” (see section below on “Arrest and use of force”). At this time, the tram inspector will inform you of the possible consequences of such an action to try to extract details from you. They will mention that the police will be called for identification. This could lead to them filing for another fine for disorderly behaviour. Essentially how this works is that you will be fined once for not having a validated ticket, and another time for refusing to cooperate and follow instructions from an inspector.

The same applies if you claim not to have identification. They do not have the right to search you, but if the police manages to find evidence of your identity that would lead to double the fine as well.

If they successfully manage to obtain your name and address, they will follow on with a few questions which you may choose not to answer. If you do answer, these will be recorded to be used against you if you proceed to contest the fine. Among the questions include: where you are travelling from/to and why you did not validate your ticket. They have the option to record anything you say. They will then issue you a receipt which is valid for travel for the rest of the day. They will inform you of their name, what offense you have committed, and what steps you could expect to face in paying for the fine. Below is a sample of what inspectors may say taken directly from the Transport Act:

“You have been spoken to by me <name>, I am an authorised officer and I believe on reasonable grounds that you have committed an offence under the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 or the Regulations. I am required to obtain and confirm your name and address to enable a report to be submitted to the Department of Transport, Planning & Local Infrastructure. This information will be stored in accordance with the Information Privacy Act and it will not be disclosed to any other party except for the legal or related purpose for which it has been collected.”

As a commuter, you only need to tell them your name and address. They are not required to demand any other information from you.

When they have successfully received contact details from you, they will give you a receipt/travel permit which allows you to travel for the rest of the day. (See below).

Travel Permit

Running away from an inspector

Surprisingly, running away from an inspector is not an offence. For police, running away can be considered “escaping legal custody” and you may be charged for it. The only consequence for running away is that inspectors may chase you to “effect an arrest”, and may fine you more for disorderly behaviour.

There are obvious signs that a passenger is ready to run from inspectors which they regularly look for. The most common would be that the passenger did not want to sit down. The tram inspector would firmly request that you sit down if you do stand up, and try to get you to remain seated.

While you are being asked for details, an inspector may ask where you are going, and if you would like to get down. They are under no obligation to do this- and have the right to insist you stay the tram past your intended stop.

If they do allow you to disembark, tram inspectors ask you to follow them and they will try to obtain your details at the station.

It must be noted however that running away may cause potential for great personal injury, and is highly dangerous, as seen in the following video.

Aggressive language or behaviour

Melbourne Tram Inspector

If you behave in a way which is aggressive and disturbing to other customers, a tram inspector will first try to calm you down to prevent a disturbance to other passengers. They may choose to put you under arrest or give you an additional fine for disorderly behaviour. Any such behaviours is usually written as a note and may be used as evidence if you challenge tickets in court.

If you are being overly aggressive either in pushing or shoving an inspector or even threatening to do so (verbally or physically as in a raised fist) you can be charged with assault. This, of course, would apply to any person even if they are not a ticket inspector.

Behavioural offences are stored in the Department of Transport archives.

Arrest and use of force

Inspectors Using Force

This section directly addresses the implications of being put under arrest. To illustrate the severity of this, consider than any citizen of Australia has the authority to put someone under a “citizen’s arrest”. This is how neighborhood watches work. Essentially, a tram inspector has the same authority as any Australian citizen, but are bounded by their code of conduct and health and safety requirements.

Inspectors however are given authority to use force to enforce this arrest. This authority is placed by the Transport Act of 1983.

The important clause is that inspectors must use “no more force than is reasonably necessary” to obtain personal information. This subjectivity depends on the judgement of inspectors, but precedents have shown than inspectors have used excessive force in the past to arrest individuals.

Transport Act (1983) http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/tama1983385/index.html

Forceful arrest and detainment







At the same time, another consideration is that officially, inspectors have been told not to interfere with passengers for their own safety. This leaked memo in 2013 shows instructions to all tram inspectors not to block the path of or surround fare evaders:


It should be noted that while inspectors may not deliberately cause harm to you or your property, this often happens as a result of a forced arrest and evidence of this could be used against inspectors in a magistrate court (See contesting a fine). Inspectors can counter-claim that they are acting under reasonable grounds to “effect an arrest”, or that they are acting for the “defense of self”.

Your experience would heavily depend on the inspectors in this case. Some may prematurely detain you forcefully if they do not feel comfortable, others may only do so if you have struck an officer (in that case you have committed assault, rather than just fare-evasion so it is justified). Officially, they should only detain you under extreme circumstances, but we can see that in practice this is not followed.

Recording the encounter

Recording Inspectors

You have full rights to record encounters. In fact, in speaking with many lawyers this seems to be recommended, as long as you do not impede the arrest (such as holding it against their face). While as a police could ask you to turn off video capture, an inspector can not. If they ask you to stop, you should ask why and on what grounds.

As a travelling passenger, you are also allowed to record and photograph inspectors as long as you are not interfering with the arrest. If you do hinder the inspector in any way, they can fine you as well.

If you want to learn more about what your rights are regarding Tram Inspectors, visit the Street-Smart Website:



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*Disclaimer:  Use the information provided at your own risk. There is no guarantee of the accuracy of information given, and no responsibility will be taken for consequences of actions taken as a result of reading this article. This information is provided for purely educational purposes.

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