Culture

There’s Now A Website That Gives Practical Advice On Fighting Public Transport Fines

Because jerks with bumbags shouldn't have all the power.

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I don’t care how much of a nerd you are, every Melburnian has had a public transport fine. Maybe your Myki didn’t touch on properly, or your student card was expired by two days, or you’re a serial offender who’s now adept at spotting officers and hopping off trams in the nick of time — you’ve definitely been accosted by a flock of people in vests and bumbags at some point, at least one of whom was an enormous jerk intent on giving you a good talking to.

Now, there’s a website that’ll let you know your rights when they do. Launching today, Myki Fines is a project created by members of advocacy group Young Liberty Victoria in consultation with QC/Myki Champion Julian Burnside. Created specifically with Victorian laws in mind, the site functions as a kind of questionnaire, ultimately letting you know whether you should fight a fine or not and how it should be done.

Were you deliberately fare evading? Cop the fine. Did you take “all reasonable steps” to get a ticket? Were there “exceptional circumstances”? You probably have a case to get it dropped.

Importantly, the site goes into detail on what those two terms mean (“reasonable steps” includes trying a second Myki reader if one is broken and “exceptional circumstances” includes emergencies or serious illness). However it also notes this does not constitute official legal advice; it’s more about knowing your basic rights.

“We have seen too many people being pressured into paying fines because they don’t understand their rights,” one of the site’s creators, Emma Buckley Lennox, said in a statement this morning. “The system is confusing and the government does not give people the information they need to be able to make proper and informed decisions.”

This has become more of a problem in recent years since the previous state government introduced $75 on-the-spot fines. Instead of providing your details and receiving a standard $223 fine in the mail which you could later contest, people are now given the option of paying the drastically reduced amount via EFTPOS and forfeiting their right to complaint. It’s welcome news for those who were wilfully offending (as well as the public transport department who now have less paperwork and court battles) but complicates the issues for those less sure. If you don’t know whether your reasoning is legally sound, paying the fine can seem like an easier option — there’s no complicated legal drama and no risk of paying three times the cost. Don’t have $75 to pay upfront anyway? Enjoy your even bigger fine down the track.

This system has been labelled “coercion” and “bullying” over the past couple of years, with The Age even describing it as “draconian”. They’re explicitly calling on the Andrews government to scrap it completely. Thankfully this is criticism which has been heard as the state government are currently conducting a review into whether it should be changed. But, for the moment, you might have to settle with having this site bookmarked on your phone and your friend who studied law on speed-dial.

Ohhh, life.

Check out Myki Fines here.