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View Full Version : Consequences of failure of an American to pay an Italian traffic ticket


CookingWithGas
07-12-2010, 11:20 AM
I drove a rental car in Italy last year during a vacation in August. Yesterday I received a notice from an Italian municipality that I am being fined 188.10 euros for going 85 kph in a 60. (The American translation of this is being fined $235 for doing 53 mph in a 37 zone).

In the U.S. if I failed to pay a ticket, the fine would increase and potentially there would be trouble registering a car, renewing my license, a warrant for my arrest, etc., etc.

What would be the consequences of failing to pay this ticket? Would I be unable to rent a car in Italy again? Anywhere in the EU? Banned from renting from the same rental company again? Get a visit from Rocco and Guido?

Because this is a legal and ethical matter I am not asking for advice as to whether I should pay it, only information about what happens when someone doesn't pay such a ticket.

I don't have any recollection of exceeding the speed limit although I did drive in the general area on the date and time cited. I was trying to be particularly aware of speed limits because I knew that camera enforcement was common. There was no photographic or other technical proof offered in the notice. This appears to be a revenue-raising effort more than a law enforcement effort. The fact that it took them over 10 months to cite me also seems odd.

Duckster
07-12-2010, 11:55 AM
WAG. Assuming the ticket is genuine, you could be arrested the next time you enter an EU country providing Italy goes hog wild and issues a warrant for your arrest.

BTW, does the date and time of the ticket coincide with your rental documents? In other words, were you in actual possession of the rental vehicle on the date this allegedly occurred, and in the vicinity of where the ticket was issued?

kbear
07-12-2010, 12:17 PM
Same thing happened to me a few years ago. The notice was in italian and I kept putting off following up. When I never heard from them again, I assumed they collected the money from the rental car company but never really looked at my credit card statements to make sure. Guess I'll find out the next time I go to Italy!

Rigamarole
07-12-2010, 12:50 PM
Curious - you got this ticket in a mail? So you never actually spoke to a police officer while you were there? It seems pretty fishy to be issuing tickets in this way. What is their proof of the alleged incident? Is there an option to contest it?

Keeve
07-12-2010, 01:00 PM
My WAG is that it is all legit. You admit that you were in that area at that time, so it is more likely that they tracked you down correctly than that they grabbed your name at random. The reason that it took 10 months probably has to do with the speed of paperwork between the police and the rental company.

Bill Door
07-12-2010, 01:02 PM
When I got a speed camera ticket on a rental in New Zealand the nice people at Hertz were kind enough to pay the ticket and charge my credit card for the amount. Keep an ey on whatever card you used for the rental, they may have the same policy.

CookingWithGas
07-12-2010, 01:27 PM
...were you in actual possession of the rental vehicle on the date this allegedly occurred, and in the vicinity of where the ticket was issued?Yes.

Curious - you got this ticket in a mail? So you never actually spoke to a police officer while you were there? It seems pretty fishy to be issuing tickets in this way. What is their proof of the alleged incident? Is there an option to contest it?I got it in the mail, and was never pulled over. I assume this was a camera ticket, which is common there. However, the letter does not indicate how my speed was measured.

When I got a speed camera ticket on a rental in New Zealand the nice people at Hertz were kind enough to pay the ticket and charge my credit card for the amount. Keep an ey on whatever card you used for the rental, they may have the same policy.This was a Hertz car. Last year they sent me a letter about the violation and charged my credit card $45.00 24 DEC 2009. I thought that was the end of it. Today I called Hertz and they told me that the charge was not the fine, it was their fee for looking up and providing my name and address to the municipality.

There is no direction for how to contest the ticket.

It appears that the notice was issued by a third party contractor. At the bottom, it says: "The Municipal Police have delegated [third party] to manage this case.... The present notice is not a notification of violation and therefore it permits the receiver to make the due payment in amicable circumstances thus avoiding the consequences of a notificaiton according to the International Conventions in force."

In other words, it's not a legal notice, it's a bill, but if I don't pay it, they will get nasty.

CookingWithGas
07-12-2010, 01:31 PM
The notice has a web site. The web site has an image of the actual violation notice, though it's in Italian and I'm not sure I can get through a whole page of legalese Italian. It also has an image of my rental agreement from Hertz, and a photo of the car, so it's certainly not a scam.

mittu
07-12-2010, 02:57 PM
Anecdotal evidence is all I could find. Some people report that nothing happens whatsoever (and they have returned to the country in question many times). Others report that the fine increased until the police went after the rental company who then paid up and charged the customer's card, the customer was also banned from using the rental company again.

Was the letter 'sign on delivery'? If not then there is no proof (other than this thread) that you ever received the fine in the first place.

Candyman74
07-12-2010, 03:11 PM
Why not just pay the fine? Solves the problem, surely?

Bear_Nenno
07-12-2010, 03:13 PM
I would pay the fine and make haste. Especially since the rental company has your credit card information and could easily just charge it. And maybe by that time the cost will be higher.

We're talking about Italy here. This is a country that will take your car if you are caught driving with expired registration. Not talking about impounding it until you pay, or charging you some extra late fees or something. I am talking about forcing you to surrender your car forever simply because your registration lapsed a week.
I wouldn't fuck around with Italy.

suranyi
07-12-2010, 03:26 PM
Yeah, what Bear_Nenno said. Every time (fortunately, not many) that I've gotten a ticket in a rental car in a foreign country, it's eventually caught up with me. Because of the rental, your credit card is on file and the fine will eventually be charged to it if you don't so something about it sooner.

2ply
07-12-2010, 03:27 PM
I beleive if you are Catholic you can be excommunicated by the Pope for this in Italy.

Also you will find two large goons at your door who will pressure you to pay.

CookingWithGas
07-12-2010, 04:39 PM
Was the letter 'sign on delivery'? If not then there is no proof (other than this thread) that you ever received the fine in the first place.No, it arrived via first class mail.

Why not just pay the fine? Solves the problem, surely?You may have missed the line in the OP where I say I am asking for facts and not advice.

Also you will find two large goons at your door who will pressure you to pay.That would be Rocco and Guido (see also OP). :D

Omar Little
07-12-2010, 04:47 PM
I guess they could possibly have a warrent for your arrest attached to your passport information, therefore the next time you enter the EU and go through immigration, you could be asked to step out of line and follow the uniformed officers into the back room.

MPB in Salt Lake
07-12-2010, 05:36 PM
This is probably not too helpful to the OP but I will throw it out there anyway----I think in Europe in general, driving offences are taken much more seriously than in most places in the USA.

There are many places (France, Austria, Belgium) that demand payment for speeding or other driving infractions instantly, with either cash or credit card required right there on the spot, under threat of immediate arrest.

Of course the VERY strict European blood-alcohol limits for drivers are well known to most travellers as another area where the US and Europe have very different standards.............

needscoffee
07-12-2010, 05:41 PM
Move to Switzerland where they will refuse to extradite you and then will set you free.

flynnibus
07-12-2010, 05:42 PM
The notice has a web site. The web site has an image of the actual violation notice, though it's in Italian and I'm not sure I can get through a whole page of legalese Italian. It also has an image of my rental agreement from Hertz, and a photo of the car, so it's certainly not a scam.

You can use google translate (http://www.google.com/translate) to translate a page 'inline' and live. Might help you interpret it all

Hermitian
07-12-2010, 05:51 PM
The fact that it took them over 10 months to cite me also seems odd.

Dude, it's ITALY.

Koxinga
07-12-2010, 05:55 PM
This is probably not too helpful to the OP but I will throw it out there anyway----I think in Europe in general, driving offences are taken much more seriously than in most places in the USA.

There are many places (France, Austria, Belgium) that demand payment for speeding or other driving infractions instantly, with either cash or credit card required right there on the spot, under threat of immediate arrest.

Of course the VERY strict European blood-alcohol limits for drivers are well known to most travellers as another area where the US and Europe have very different standards.............

Just going by stereotypes, I could believe this for Germany or France, but Italy? I've never been to any of the three countries, but somehow I had the impression that Italian drivers were not as worried about traffic enforcement as denizens of other lands.

CookingWithGas
07-12-2010, 06:57 PM
You can use google translate (http://www.google.com/translate) to translate a page 'inline' and live. Might help you interpret it allIt's a JPG scan.

constanze
07-13-2010, 08:04 AM
Because this is a legal and ethical matter I am not asking for advice as to whether I should pay it, only information about what happens when someone doesn't pay such a ticket.

Ethically, you have to pay because you broke the law. Legally you have to pay because you broke the law, regardless of how severe or light the consequences are.

I don't have any recollection of exceeding the speed limit although I did drive in the general area on the date and time cited. I was trying to be particularly aware of speed limits because I knew that camera enforcement was common.

Being aware while driving in a different country with a different measurement system (kilometers instead of miles) is a good start, but doesn't mean that you succeeded.

Or the machine that measured your speed was off.

There was no photographic or other technical proof offered in the notice.

IAMNAItalian, nor a car driver here, but I don't think that's required. The police - or the company that the police outsourced the speed control to - have a picture of the car whose number was registrered to you breaking the speed limit; they don't have to show it to you (though they might).

This appears to be a revenue-raising effort more than a law enforcement effort.

First, how do you know? Do you know the accident rate on this stretch of road? I know that there are regularly screams from the car drivers that the state is milking them for revenue, and just as regularly the police points out that they put their speed cameras where a lot of accidents happen, or where a straight part of road induces people to speed above the limit.

This doesn't preclude individual instances of police or companies setting up revenue traps, but it's not the default way here. If the automobile club or a similar above-board group can show to the city council that the cameras were placed with regard to revenue and not to accidents or other issues, then the city council is obliged to and will crack down on the cops/ company in question.

There are also regularly cries from foreign drivers in the southern countries like Italy being hit far harder = with higher fines than the native citizens for small infractions. At that point, the officials of that country usually reply along the lines of "You tourists come here and drive like maniacs in the knowledge that fines won't hit your registry home, so we want to stop the behaviour and have to go drastic".

The fact that it took them over 10 months to cite me also seems odd.

Not at all: 1. Italy
2. The police/ company had to go to the rental agency, which had to look in their files who rented that car in that time, think about giving out your adress, and then the postal service had to row the boat across the ocean.

constanze
07-13-2010, 08:11 AM
Curious - you got this ticket in a mail? So you never actually spoke to a police officer while you were there?

If it's a camera trap, you don't see a police officer at all. That's why they put the cameras up in the first place, so they don't tie up cops standing around all day just measuring speed.

It seems pretty fishy to be issuing tickets in this way. What is their proof of the alleged incident?

Probably a photo of the car with the license plate. They may send a copy with the ticket, but I don't think they are obliged to.

Is there an option to contest it?

There probably is a notice - in Italian! - on the form somewhere about how to contest it, until what date, and where.

Though usually, you only contest a ticket if you have proof yourself that you didn't do it. You don't go to court if you are guilty of the infraction. So you would need solid proof that either you didn't drive the car on that time, or that you kept the speed limit, or that their equipment is faulty - if a bunch of tickets around the same time were all way over the speed limit. If you think it's likely that you speeded by the amount given, so it's not wildly impossible, you have no practical options left.

constanze
07-13-2010, 08:13 AM
Was the letter 'sign on delivery'? If not then there is no proof (other than this thread) that you ever received the fine in the first place.

No, it doesn't work that way over here - special delivery forms for all notices or traffic fines would be far too expensive for the police! The legal assumption is that you received the letter unless you can prove that you didn't.

constanze
07-13-2010, 08:14 AM
Just going by stereotypes, I could believe this for Germany or France, but Italy? I've never been to any of the three countries, but somehow I had the impression that Italian drivers were not as worried about traffic enforcement as denizens of other lands.

The native Italian drivers may drive like crazy (it's been a while since I was there), but regularly, the automotive club warns the German drivers on vacation that the southern police likes to come down hard on foreign drivers.

CookingWithGas
07-13-2010, 08:33 AM
Ethically, you have to pay because you broke the law. Legally you have to pay because you broke the law, regardless of how severe or light the consequences are.Recall that the question was, "What are the consequences?", not "what is your opinion about what I should do."

There was no photographic or other technical proof offered in the notice. IAMNAItalian, nor a car driver here, but I don't think that's required. My point was that the notice gave no indication of how they determined that I was speeding. (I subsequently got further information by going to the web site mentioned in the notice.)

Not at all: 1. Italy
2. The police/ company had to go to the rental agency, which had to look in their files who rented that car in that time, think about giving out your adress, and then the postal service had to row the boat across the ocean.The incident occurred in August 2009. The rental company provided the information in December, though I don't know when the agency requested it. Once I got a camera ticket in D.C. and it took them about a week to issue the ticket. None of this is really direct to the OP, just strikes me as odd.

Koxinga
07-13-2010, 08:33 AM
The native Italian drivers may drive like crazy (it's been a while since I was there), but regularly, the automotive club warns the German drivers on vacation that the southern police likes to come down hard on foreign drivers.

Surely you can see that selective enforcement of the law diminishes respect for the law, and deservedly so. So no need for stern lectures on the OP's civic responsibilities, if indeed it is a shakedown attempt posing in legal garb.

SanVito
07-13-2010, 08:35 AM
I have home in Italy and drive a rental care about 4 times a year there.

Four years ago I got a fine by post in England (many months later) - they'd tracked my address via the rental company (which I think was Avis, from memory). Due to home life complications (relationship break-up, leaving home, mislaying half my paperwork) I never got round to paying the fine - it was just about the last thing on my list of priorities.

Talking to Italians and British residents over there, the consensus seems to be that the Italian police send a fine in the hope that you - foreigner - will pay it, but that they don't have the time or resource to chase you up if you don't.

I have never been chased. I have also used the same rental company on many occasions since.

But please don't take my word for it, just anecdotal.

Mk VII
07-13-2010, 09:12 AM
Here, inside the EU, it will be enforced as a fine by your domestic legal system. As I doubt the US courts will be induced to enforce the ticket, you can probably ignore it if you never go to Europe again.
Very likely the time period for contesting it has already expired before you got it.

Nava
07-13-2010, 09:16 AM
Curious - you got this ticket in a mail? So you never actually spoke to a police officer while you were there? It seems pretty fishy to be issuing tickets in this way. What is their proof of the alleged incident? Is there an option to contest it?

It's standard for fixed radars, they don't come with an attached cop.

Mk VII
07-13-2010, 09:21 AM
Yes, it's the standard here too, you won't know about it until the ticket arrives.

bpinard
08-01-2011, 08:16 PM
I received three traffic tickets dated June 29, 2011 for driving in a bus lane in Rome on Aug 29, 2010 on the same street at 10:29 am, 10:45 am, and 10:48 am. Given an ID and password to a website that showed a copy of my rental agreement and photo of same car I drove in Rome.

Emailed emo asking they reduce three tickets of 99 Euros each to one ticket. We have already been through the three unexpected charges from Hertz which we tried to reject but were accepted by our bank.

EU laws say if they don't give official notice of payment (registered letter) within 365 days of receipt of car rental information, then you can ask the charges be annulled.

Other veteran travel sites say if you do not pay, Italy can and has gone back to Hertz for payment and then Hertz charges you considerably more. The violation is valid for 5 years. Risk Italy will not have Hertz pay them and wait 5 years to return or pay much more to car rental company. Smartest thing is to just pay the $450 in fines.

We'll keep you posted.

astro
08-02-2011, 12:34 AM
Fake your death and live off the grid. It's the only way out. If you need help I know a guy, who knows, a guy, who knows a girl who's got a boat and a chainsaw.

Little Nemo
08-02-2011, 12:48 AM
In the U.S. if I failed to pay a ticket, the fine would increase and potentially there would be trouble registering a car, renewing my license, a warrant for my arrest, etc., etc.IANAL but I have heard that Canada and the United States used to have trouble with citizens from the other country ignoring traffic tickets because there was no method of enforcing them such as you described. So they eventually negotiated a treaty that extended the payment of traffic violations across the border. If you are an American and you have an overdue unpaid Canadian traffic ticket, you will be required to pay it when you re-register your car in the United States (and vice versa if you're a Canadian with an unpaid American ticket).

That said, I have no idea if a similar policy exists with Italy.

md2000
08-02-2011, 07:50 AM
Ontario (when it had photoradar) and I understand several other provinces, changed the law so that the registered owner was liable for photo-induced fines. It greatly simplified the collection process and the court arguments.

I assumed back when I rented cars in Europe that the same rules applied, but obviously this is not the case based on the OP. The time I rented a car in Italy, I did not get any tickets, but the rental agreement warning said they would pay any traffic tickets and charge my credit card. Presumably they meant parking fines then?

smithsb
08-02-2011, 08:53 AM
Wild West days of Italian driving and financial institutions are over. Large contrast between my 1st stay 1996-2001 and 2nd 2006-2008. Much less tolerance of speeding, drinking, reckless driving not to mention what seemed to be an exponential increase in car numbers and traffic delays especially along the A4 corridor (northern Italy). The banks, credit cards, police, utilities, toll roads, etc... are all pretty well intertwined.

Somewhere in the rental car agreement (font=zpaf dingbats, size=1) there is a statement about you being responsible for any sort of mayhem to the car or fines/tolls uncollected. The rental car company will have to pay the fine and will charge you the fine plus penalty.

The longer it goes on, I suspect the penality part will get much larger especially since it now seems that a third party is now involved in the collection process.

kayaker
08-02-2011, 09:09 AM
the rental company has your credit card information and could easily just charge it.

Another option would be to cancel the card. Just sayin.

Martin Hyde
08-02-2011, 10:35 AM
Another option would be to cancel the card. Just sayin.

That would prevent you from being directly charged but if you signed a rental agreement in which you agree to compensate the company for certain incidentals the credit card required at rental time is just the convenient method of collecting. If for any reason the rental company cannot charge that card they can still certainly send you collections notices, eventually turning it over to a collections agency and impacting your credit.

I'm not familiar with credit cards on such situations but I know that if you close a checking account with checks outstanding or auto charges that later process the bank can hold you responsible. Often it carries over to new accounts you open as well, I knew someone who had $500 in checks hit after he closed his account. He refused to pay the bank, but years later when opening a new checking account the bank in his new town declined him as a customer until he settled the matter with his previous bank.

Chessic Sense
08-02-2011, 01:43 PM
Fake your death and live off the grid. It's the only way out. If you need help I know a guy, who knows, a guy, who knows a girl who's got a boat and a chainsaw.

I think he took your advice, but he came back as a zombie.



*Seriously, people, it took eight posts to make a zombie joke? Shame upon the entire SDMB.

Muffin
08-02-2011, 02:10 PM
I think in Europe in general, driving offences are taken much more seriously than in most places in the USA.

There are many places (France, Austria, Belgium) that demand payment for speeding or other driving infractions instantly, with either cash or credit card required right there on the spot, under threat of immediate arrest.France, Austria, Belgium and Wisconsin. Especially in Wisconsin if you are a passenger in a vehicle that is not speeding, but happens to have Canadian plates. No, I'm not bitter.