[Section 4] How to increase your chances of fine withdrawal

The Infringement Notice

After the incident, expect the notice of infringement to arrive in about a month. If an excessive amount of time has gone past before you receive it, there may be grounds to contest it due to not being able to mount an effective case due to the length of delay.

The notice of infringement gives you specific details on the incident, and outlines how you could pay for the infringement. A sample copy is attached below.

infringement1

infringement2 infringement3
infringement4

As stated on the notice, besides paying there are three options once you have received it: ignore it, contest it, or bring the matter to court.

1) Paying for the fine

If you pay for the fine, the matter will be closed and you may receive a receipt for this payment.

2) Ignoring the fine

If you ignore the fine, multiple other notices will be given, and penalties for not paying on time would be applied. If you still do not choose to pay, a notice to appeal in court may be received. While some have claimed to have ignored all mail from them with success, this seems to be quite uncommon unless a false or old address is given.

At the time of writing three of my anonymous contributors have claimed to give false or old addresses and have not yet received any repercussions. That said, this can be considered fraud and have much higher penalties if found/proven.

3) Contesting the fine

If you contest the fine, you may send in a letter explaining your circumstances. While some sites report that one in three appeals will result in a waiver (especially if it is your first infringement, or infringement involving not carrying a concession card), the number may have gone down due the the large number of people who choose to appeal now.

If you are successful, your fine could be waived or reduced. If you are unsuccessful, you will get a letter stating the reasons for not allowing the repeal, and recommending the court option if you want to continue to contest the fine. (For more, refer to next section: contesting fines in court).

It should be notes that while the fine is being examined, your obligation to pay the fine is put on hold. This means the new notice will indicate a new (and later) due date for paying the fine. There are no negative consequences for contesting the fine (apart from your time and energy drafting the letter). The only three possible routes are that: 1) the DoT withdraws the infringement notice and offers a formal caution, 2) the DoT could refer it to court or 3) the DoT could decline to withdraw (as in example below).

 

Review Response 1 Review Response 2 Review Response 3

It has been pointed out that non-valid-ticket infringements fall under the “strict liability” section of the law. This has been confirmed by multiple lawyers. This means that regardless of your circumstances or intentions, you could be fined for not having a valid ticket- and it is up to the discretion of the department of transport whether to enforce this.

What to do at the scene if you intend to contest:

  • Unless the Authorised Officer (AO) takes it, keep your ticket as evidence, whether or not you were able to touch on.
  • Record the numbers of any ticket machine or card reader that might have contributed to the problem.
  • Try to get contact details of a witness (e.g. someone who observed you trying to touch on).
  • Make a note, such as in your diary, of the incident.
  • Make any complaint about the conduct of an AO as soon as possible after the incident
  • If relevant, see a doctor and photograph any injuries.
  • A photo of the non-functional ticket machine or Myki reader will help.

Melbourne Tram Inspector Incident

Contesting fines in court

Contesting the fine in court would be the final and most effective method of contesting a fine. While there is an additional charge for choosing this method, a vast majority of fines are dropped due to insufficient evidence.

From a collection of testimony, it would seem that the process of contesting a fine in court is straightforward. You submit the application to be heard in court, and together arrange a date suitable for the hearing. It is recommended that you contact a lawyer for legal advice while undertaking this process. For many, Yarra Trams may send a letter requesting to settle the matter outside of court with a reduced fine a few days prior to the court date. If a conclusion is not met, you will be heard by a judge who will determine if there if sufficient evidence to justify the fine. That judgement would be final.

Recent statics released September 2014 reveal that of 109 people who contest their fines in court, only 6 have been unsuccessful. That is less than a 7% conviction rate taking into account no-shows, even though 80% of those who contest their fines actually pleaded guilty. Not a single person who has pleaded not guilty has been fined. While another 17 were fined because they did not turn up to court, the vast majority were dismissed and one woman was even awarded $383 to pay for her court costs.

Statistics: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/myki-fines-fail-in-court-20140929-10nlbk.html

Reports that tram fines are unable to hold the scrutiny of court:

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/state-warned-on-myki-fines-20131207-2yyfb.html

The benefits of going to court are obviously that a majority of fines do not stand up to legal scrutiny. Of the ones which do, many result in a lesser fine. If you are unable to pay financially, the judge may rule for you to do community service or some other form of payment. If unsuccessful, the fine could be reimposed in the original amount or increased accordingly.

A common question regarding contesting in court is if this would go on your personal record. While it may be recorded- it would also be explicitly noted that you attended court and had to pay a fine for not having a valid ticket while travelling in public transport. It is also the judge’s decision whether to record it or not- and there is precedent for judges to waive the official record. Lawyers I have contacted have advised that this is highly unlikely. In Victoria, Section 8 of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) states that the judge will take into account the severity of the crime in deciding whether to record the offence or not. In most cases, unless assault or a higher offence is committed, tram fines are not recorded into your criminal record.

More on the Sentencing Act (1991): http://www.lawhandbook.org.au/handbook/ch03s05s01.php

A few common and valid reasons for contesting fines include:

  • Machines are not operating
  • Inspectors did not give you reasonable time to tap on

Other ways of fighting the fine

Melbourne Tram Inspectors

A few other ways you can fight the fine include contacting various consumer protection organisations and notifying them of your issue:

  • Your local state MP: elected representatives have the job of listening to problems such as these. Visiting them in person would be most effective.
  • Public Transport Ombudsman: the PTO, while unable to repeal the infringement for you, can give you advice on how to ask for an appropriate review.
  • Victorian State Ombudsman: they are responsible for the adequacy and timeliness of responses
  • Privacy Victoria: they are responsible for the conduct of tram inspectors
  • Local or statewide media: if you have evidence (video or photo) of inspectors behaving badly or a specific unique challenge, it may be worth contacting your local news stations

For more information on these alternative methods and how to find them, visit http://www.ptua.org.au/publications/fines/

 

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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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