A public transit fare violation is the act of traveling on public transport while disobeying laws and/or regulations. The violation is done by deliberately not purchasing the required ticket to travel.

It is a crime to ride a bus, train, or other form of public transportation without paying the required fare. Public transit fare violations is a problem in many parts of the world. Most cities have policies allowing fare inspectors to cite riders who have not paid the fare and who commit other crimes while riding or using public transportation.

Fare evasion and fare fraud is generally a crime in most jurisdictions. There are many forms of fare evasion including:

  • "Turnstile jumping" – the act of jumping over turnstiles which mark the entryway into a subway system
  • Adults traveling on children’s tickets
  • Using discounted tickets or free passes unlawfully
  • Train surfing

What Are Some Other Transit Crimes?

Riders may also be fined or cited if they:

  • Provide a fare inspector with false information
  • Litter on public transportation
  • Deface equipment or write graffiti
  • Illegally sell or transfer transit passes or other transit mediums

Many states also consider it illegal for a bus driver or transit operator not to collect fares from passengers. Failing to collect fares may result in probation, suspension, or termination of the operator’s position.

What Are the Penalties for Public Transit Violations?

Bus fare and transit violations often result in:

  • Fines (up to $500)
  • Citations
  • Criminal record
  • Probation
  • Imprisonment (usually not more than 10 days)
  • Civil penalties, such as fines of $100

Are There Countermeasures in Place to Prevent Public Transit Violations?

One of the main issues with public fare transit violations occur when police and public transit officials are not able to catch all perpetrators in the act. There is simply not enough manpower. Therefore, numerous countermeasures have been incorporated on various forms of public transportation to prevent these violations from occurring.

  • Panic Bars: Panic bars on emergency exit doors sound an alarm when the door is opened. Panic bars can prevent evasion as prior to the installation of the bars, evaders would enter through the gates when exiting passengers opened doors.
  • Closed Circuit Television: Closed circuit television or CCTV monitoring is used by many public transport companies to combat vandalism and other public order crimes. CCTV systems are able to discriminate the scenes to detect and segregate suspicious behavior from numerous screens and to enable automatic alerting.
  • Penalty Fare: A penalty fare is a fare charged at a higher rate because the purchase did not comply with normal ticket purchasing regulations. Penalty fares are not fines, but are used when there is no legal basis for prosecuting fare evasion.
  • Civil and Criminal Penalties: In some jurisdictions, fare evasion is a misdemeanor. Some punishers may be incarcerated for repeat offenses.
  • Ticket Barriers: Ticket barriers have been installed at most public transportation stations to obstruct access. Ticket barriers require travelers to show their tickets to pass through the barrier and make it difficult for violators to pass through.
  • Ticket Inspectors: Ticket inspectors manually inspect tickets to ensure there are no violations.
  • Uniformed Guards and/or Police Officers: The presence of uniformed guards and/or police officers can deter criminal activity.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Public Transit Violation?

A public transit violation can blemish your otherwise clear criminal record. If you are charged with a fare or transit violation, an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you of your legal rights and defenses.