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Communtity Law Manual | Driving & traffic law | Riding buses and trains without paying (“Fare evasion”)

Riding buses and trains without paying (“Fare evasion”)

Overview

What can happen to me if I don’t pay a bus or train fare?

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 79M, 128F

If you’re travelling on public transport, ticket inspectors employed by local councils can require you to show them evidence you’ve paid. If the bus or train service is using electronic ticketing with smartcards (like Auckland’s AT HOP card), you have to give the inspector your card so they can use a hand-held smart reader to check you’ve paid.

If you don’t show them evidence you’ve paid, they can give you an infringement notice, like a parking ticket – this will require you to pay an infringement fee of up to $500.

Those powers can only be exercised by traffic inspectors who’ve been officially appointed (“warranted”) for this role by the Police Commissioner. They’ll carry identification to show they’re official inspectors. Other transport workers – drivers and conductors – don’t have those powers.

But it’s a defence if you had made reasonable attempts to pay the fare and there were no available ways of doing it – for example, if the ticketing machine was broken. You’ll need to write to the transport authority (Auckland Transport for example) and put your case to them. For more information about how to challenge infringement notices, see “Court processes: How driving offences are dealt with” / “Infringement offences: Parking and speeding tickets, and other lower-level offences” in this chapter.

So that the ticket inspectors can get the information they need in order to give you an infringement notice in those situations, they’ve got the legal power to require you to tell them your full name, address, phone number and date of birth. If you refuse to tell them, or if you give them false information, this is a criminal offence, and if you’re convicted you can be fined up to $1,000. This will also give you a criminal record, unlike getting an infringement notice. It’s classed as a Category 1 offence, which means you’ll be dealt with in the District Court – for more information about the court process for Category 1 offences, see “Court processes: How driving offences are dealt with” / “Category 1 driving offences: Fines or community-based sentences only” in this chapter.

If you’ve refused to show the ticket inspector evidence that you’ve paid, they can also order you to get off the bus or train (or not let you on if you haven’t yet boarded it). If you refuse, this is also a criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

Note: Although ticket inspectors already had the power to give out infringement notices, the power to require you to give your details, backed by a possible criminal conviction if you don’t give them, was introduced only in August 2017.

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