The specific situation I'm thinking of is ticket inspectors, but it could apply to other situations.

  1. The ticket inspectors assume you are fare evading without evidence (no presumption of innocence)
  2. They ask to see your ticket (violent communication, implying you're lying)
  3. If you refuse, you can be arrested and escorted off the train even though your ticket is valid (actual physical violence), and possibly issued a fine, not for travelling without a valid ticket, but for failing to produce a valid ticket when asked

As far as I know, the police must have reasonable suspicion before interacting with you, and ticket inspectors are also called "transit police". I'm not sure if they're actual police or not.

My issue is not about fare evasion. It is about treating the innocent as if they were guilty and placing the burden of proof on the accused instead of the accuser. For what it's worth, I always travel with a valid ticket and I don't like fare evasion. I also find it offensive being falsely accused on an almost daily basis, even if that's not how they see it.

Transit laws notwithstanding, is this behaviour in any way illegal?

  • 1
    Downvoter, can you please explain what is wrong with this question?
    – sharur
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 5:09
  • I think this is a poorly phrased question. A ticket inspector does not assume you are fare evading, and in no way imply you are lying when they ask to see your ticket. The job of a (properly trained) ticket inspector is simply to politely inspect tickets as a common-sense control measure. In the old days, ticket inspectors acted as gate-keepes (you had to show the ticket in order to board). But that slowed down the service unless you employed a lot of inspectors, so now they do randomized onboard checks instead. Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 6:37
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    Which public transport service are you talking about? I am sure there will be terms&conditions that you accept (e.g. producing ticket on request) by using it.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 8:41
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    @Greendrake in Queensland, at least, there is a statutory provision granting this power to drivers and other "authorised persons." See legislation.qld.gov.au/view/whole/html/inforce/current/…. So the question really turns on whether that provision is consistent with fundamental rights such as the presumption of innocence or other rights that relate to free movement in public places (I'm not familiar with Australia's definitions of these rights or names for them).
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 18:02
  • In the described scenario, there is no "accused." Thus, this question doesn't really make sense.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 1:42

3 Answers 3


From a US perspective, in a word, "no".

Firstly, "presumption of innocence" is in a trial, not in police interactions. Being arrested does not violate the presumption of innocence. Police do not need any reason to interact with you or ask you questions. Police can arrest you if they have probable cause to suspect you have committed a crime, but this is not always necessary. More on this later(in the fourth section).

Secondly, I wouldn't describe requesting to see your ticket, or any document as a "violent communication", in general. It may be rude or insulting, but not violent. (Also "violent communication" is not a legal term. The closest legal terms, verbal assault and threatening communication, are also not this.) More over, there is no indication of am implication of lying in this request.

Thirdly, there are many situations in which possessing a document or credential is not sufficient; one must legally display or present them upon request. For example, multiple occupational licenses such as liquor licenses and barber/cosmetology licenses require that the licenses be prominently displayed; whereas, in California at least, a vehicle driver on a public road must not only possess their driver's license and proof of insurance, they must produce them upon the request of any law enforcement officer (Source: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/brochures/fast_facts/ffvr18).

Fourthly, there are situations in which you can be legally searched and questioned without reasonable suspicion. Examples of this include boarder searches and sobriety checkpoints. Sources: (US Supreme Court rulings): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Martinez-Fuerte;


A note on sources: bdb484 and I have opposing court case sources. My sources have binding precedent over all courts in the US, save the US Supreme Court, whereas theirs don't have any binding precedent, but are more directly on-topic.

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    Hey, you mentioned police not needing reason to question people and said "more on this later," but I don't see any more on this. Unless you literally meant you'd add it at a later date or time!
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 1:09
  • @A.fm. Thank you; that was some faulty editing on my part. My post was getting long, so I broke half of that off into a fourth point; apparently I did a bad job of doing so. Hopefully better?
    – sharur
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 1:16

I don't know what the framework is in Australia, but for whatever it's worth, this has come up in the United States, as well. We had a case just last year where a judge found that it violated the Fourth Amendment to stop people and demand proof of payment based on nothing more than their presence on the bus:

Once aboard the bus, there is a presumption that each passenger is legally present unless the officer rebuts the presumption with reasonable articulable suspicion that a passenger has failed to pay.

Again, the Fourth Amendment obviously doesn't apply in Australia, but since your question suggests that you may operate under the same "reasonable suspicion" standard that we have over here, this could be a useful analysis.

You can read coverage of the case and the decision here.

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    The Cleveland case is interesting. But it's important to note that (a) the ruling was made by a municipal judge and AFAIK has no effect outside Ohio, or possibly outside Cleveland; (b) the ruling hinged on the fact that the ticket demands were made by police, and said explicitly there would be no problem if the same actions were taken by ticket inspectors who were not law enforcement officers. Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 3:18
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    Also, I haven't read the case but I would expect that the bus is a "pay on entry" setup, like every public transit bus I've ever seen. At which point, it's reasonable to assume that someone on the bus has paid. If you do not have to present a ticket to board (as is the case with many train systems), then simple presence wouldn't imply you actually have one, and thus wouldn't imply you were legally present.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 20:14
  • @Bobson while you may not have seen them, public transit buses that use ticket systems are fairly common, though they do remain rare in the US. New York City has a few, however.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 2:45
  • @Bobson: A common system these days is "all-door boarding". At the bus's front door, there is a fare box to pay the fare, and the driver checks tickets. But if you have a pass, you are allowed to board through the back door, where nobody is checking. This makes things more efficient, but of course you can also try to get on at the back door without a pass and without paying. To avoid this, there may be random spot checks by ticket inspectors. It sounds like this is the sort of system that Cleveland uses. Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 20:41

Austrailia is a Commonwealth nation and thus follows Common Law. Common Law holds precedence of "Shopkeeper's Prerogative" which establishes in a place where you purchase an item or service or entry fee, the operator of the establishment has a right to reasonable search or detain you for arrest by law enforcement (citizens arrest) if he or she has a reasonable suspicion of theft (in this case, a transit ride without fair) has occurred.

Certain stores find ways to give them this reasonable suspicion. For example, taking an item with a security tag out of the store will trip the alarms, which will give the store employees a right to check the receipt and the goods you have purchased to make sure everything got rung up. They can detain you if you refuse to comply. In the U.S. we also have members only bulk whole sale stores (Sam's Club, BJ's Costco) which normally have language in their member agreement that requires you to produce a reciept on demand of the store as a term of membership. You have to sign this agreement in order to be a member and eligible for store purchases.

Either of these can be used with the purchase of a ticket for service. The purchase creates an agreement between the customer and the service to a search on service operator's request OR the ticket will allow you to pass entry or egress barriers that if tripped without a ticket, or circumvented, give the service provider suspicion enough to search you for evidence of purchase.

  • 1
    There's no need to rely on shopkeeper's privilege; there's an explicit provision in statutory law (in Queensland, at least) giving drivers and other "authorised persons" the power to require production of tickets. The question is therefore not whether such behavior is lawful but whether the law is consistent with the presumption of innocence.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 17:58

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