“Hi all. So today was the day that I had my hearing at the Magistrate’s Court in William Street. This was for a fine that was issued to me in October 2013: ‘Failing to produce a valid ticket for travel’.
As soon as I got the first letter of infringement in the mail I wrote back to the Case Review Officer to ask for a waiver. Case Review Officer said No. He cited the notion of strict liability for his decision to maintain that I must pay the fine.
A few more exchanges and a fine increase later I ask to have the matter brought to the Magistrate’s Court. I was very much encouraged to have my case heard in court after reading The Age articles here and here. Also, Transport Regs here bit later I receive a Charge Sheet and Summons in the mail. The Summons requires that I attend Court on the 27th November, 1:30pm. This has brought the whole affair to over twelve months now.
On the day things happen slow and late. Not much happens until 2pm. Before anyone like me even enters the Court, he or she will be asked by the prosecutor (the decidedly un-scary legal representative of the myki operators) to check the details of the case with them. (Why? I’m pretty sure it’s the same as ‘my lawyer talks to your lawyer to make sure we each have the story straight before presenting the case before the magistrate. But in this case ‘my lawyer’ means ‘me’.
Again this is a slow process. The case that the prosecutor puts forward to the magistrate is fairly inflexible and is restricted by the notes written by the Authorised Officers.
One by one the prosecutor asks ‘Anyone here for the Department of Transport?’ A few hands go up. When he or she selects you he takes you into a small room with a table and chairs, off the main waiting area. The table is covered with case files, one of them he will find with your name on it. The prosecutor thumbs through it and tries to familiarise himself with it.
By far the most common order of the day was for the defendant to be called to address the magistrate, had his or her charge described and to be asked by the magistrate if it is a good summary of the events of the encounter with the Authorised Officers. Some were found to have spoken rudely to Authorised Officers, some were found to have been intercepted in a designated area after climbing a railway station fence. Most, like me, were charged with failing to produce a valid ticket when asked by Authorised Officers.
The magistrate determines that all parties agree on the facts, then asks the defendant how he or she pleads..
Here’s where you announce 1) you plead Not Guilty 2) you plead Guilty. Or.. 3) ask for an Indication of Sentence
Asking for an Indication of Sentence is a little move where you ask the magistrate ‘hey, if I plead guilty, what is gonna happen? What am I gonna get?’ You can get a preview of what lies beyond the plea of Guilty.
The magistrate for our bunch of stiffs would mostly say ‘I find the charge proven. Would you like to speak on the matter?’
Here’s where you elaborate on the scant but incriminating facts provided by the Authorised Officers. In my case I mentioned that records show that I had topped up my card $20, 33 minutes before being told that I had an invalid ticket. When I got on the tram I saw that the screen read ‘In Service’ and I got a flash and a beep from the reader. I thought the reader had properly acknowledged my card, apparently it had not.
One other defendant stated: ‘Your Honour, I have used myki for three months without incident. On the morning in question I held my card to the reader before I got on the train like I always do, but when I got to the barriers at Melbourne Central they wouldn’t open. I called an Officer over and he issued me with a fine for not touching on.’
In keeping with the articles in the Age, not one person who fronted up to the court and pleaded Guilty to state their case got stuck with the fine. They all had their fines dismissed after giving a cursory explanation of events. I walked away with charge proven, fine dismissed, no criminal record. Result.
I saw in the sidebar somewhere here the off-handed instruction to ‘stop whingeing pay your myki fines’ or something. I advise that you do not.