Going to court for public transport offences

Going to court for public transport offences

If the Department of Transport charges you with a public transport offence you will have to go to court to answer the charge. You will also have to go to court if you choose to have an infringement dealt with by the court instead of paying the fine. 

Whether you are guilty will depend on the particular facts and circumstances of your case. Look at ‘Details of the charge’ in your charge sheet to see what the authorised officer or police officer wrote about your offence. The magistrate refers to this in the courtroom.

Public transport offences are heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

What the prosecution has to prove

The prosecution has to prove that an authorised officer believed on reasonable grounds that you committed an offence.

You may have a defence if the authorised officer did not have reasonable grounds for believing you had committed an offence. Whether there were reasonable grounds is for the magistrate to decide.

Your options in court

You have three options:

  • ask for a diversion
  • plead guilty
  • plead not guilty.

Admit to the charges and ask for diversion

The diversion program means your case is treated differently. It is normally for less serious cases. You must agree to certain conditions. You do not get a criminal record.

To get diversion you must admit responsibility for the offence. This includes everything the informant says in the statement of alleged facts. This means you tell the magistrate that you know you broke the law but you would like diversion. If you have not been given a diversion recommendation, you can ask to adjourn the case to a later date.

See Diversion programs.

Plead guilty

If you agree that you broke the law, tell the court staff that you are pleading guilty. Go into the courtroom. The prosecutor, usually from the Department of Transport, reads out the statement of alleged facts. The magistrate finds you guilty and gives you a penalty.

If you plead guilty the magistrate treats your plea as a sign that you are co-operating and may give you a less severe penalty.

See Pleading guilty.

Plead not guilty

If you believe that you did not break the law or you disagree with what the informant says you did, you must tell the prosecutor that you plan to plead not guilty. They will talk to you about this before your case is heard in court. After the conversation, if you still wish to plead not guilty, tell the magistrate. The magistrate adjourns your case for another day.

You will come back to court for a contested hearing. At this hearing the magistrate listens to evidence from you and the prosecutor before making a decision. You should have a defence. Saying that you did not know you were breaking the law is not a good enough defence.

If you are pleading not guilty, get legal advice before the contested hearing. Also see Pleading not guilty.

Adjourning a court hearing

You can go into the courtroom and ask the magistrate for an adjournment if you want to:

Adjournments are hard to get for any other reason. The magistrate may say no.

Penalties if you are found guilty

Fines

Most public transport offences are punishable by fine. The amount you may be fined depends on the offence. You can get up to five penalty units for an offence of:

  • failure to give name and address
  • failure to produce evidence of concession
  • failure to produce a valid ticket
  • placing feet on furniture
  • smoking on public transport.

You can get up to 10 penalty units for an offence of prohibited language or behaviour.

You can pay the fine at any Magistrates’ Court. Go to the court counter and ask the staff for help.

Let the magistrate know if you might have trouble paying the fine. There are options. You can ask the magistrate to:

  • make a plan for you to pay bit by bit
  • give you community work instead of the fine.

If you do not pay, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

Other penalties

The magistrate may also:

  • place you on an undertaking to behave well for a certain amount of time
  • find the charge against you proven but let you go without any further penalty.

How the magistrate decides what penalties to give

The magistrate looks at:

  • how serious your offence is
  • if you have been found guilty of similar offences before
  • what else is happening in your life.

Getting a criminal record

What happens in court goes on your criminal record. This includes:

  • the finding of guilt
  • a conviction, if there is one
  • penalties.

Can I appeal the magistrate’s decision?

If you do not agree with the decision you can appeal to the County Court. You have 28 days to do this. Get legal advice before you decide. You could get a higher penalty.

See Appealing a Magistrates’ Court decision.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with public transport offences.