Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To pay or not to pay . . .

Friday, November 18, 2011
So now comes the time to figure out how to pay my traffic fine. Unfortunately, the only way to pay, according to the notification letter, is by an IBAN bank transfer. This is a common and inexpensive way to make payments in Europe, but U.S. banks do not participate in the IBAN system, so it will cost another $35 for my bank to wire the money. I do a web search to see if there is an alternative way to pay but come up empty.

I also find some forums where people have argued against paying the bill for traffic tickets received in Italy, but they are countered by even more people arguing the other side. It seems the arguments are split about three to one in favor of paying. Reasons for paying given: It is the law of the land and should be obeyed. Nobody wants traffic snarling the city centers or people driving at unsafe speeds. The fine nearly doubles if you don’t pay on time. Non-payers might be pursued by a collection agency and be reported to credit rating firms, or they might have trouble re-entering Italy or have their cars impounded if they are stopped again. Some simply said they considered it part of the tourist experience—there are always unexpected expenses on a trip, and this is just one of them.

Those in favor of not paying state that the fines are excessive, they discriminate against foreigners who don’t understand the traffic signs, and many said that they never even saw the signs. Non-paying advocates also say that the tickets come anywhere from six to 18 months after the infraction, an unfair delay that makes it more difficult to appeal, not to mention that appeals must be written in Italian. Some cite technical reasons, such as a law that the ticket must be delivered within a year of the infraction. Another pointed out that the tickets are sent by registered mail, but the directions are written in Italian, so the U.S. postal carriers don’t make the receivers sign, and thus the Italian police have no proof that the ticket was received.

A number of non-payers commented that they never heard another word from the police after throwing their tickets away. No more letters. Nothing on their credit reports. No word from collection agencies. One official admitted in an interview that it was probably not worth the trouble of pursuing a non-payer unless he or she had five or more tickets. (Note: I have more information about a non-payer in a later blog: What will happen if you don’t pay your ticket for a traffic violation in Italy?)
So, knowing that there will probably be no consequences for not paying, and also that my postal carrier didn’t have me sign the receipt, I have considered joining the non-payers. In the end, though, I have decided to pay. I was speeding. I knew I was speeding. I agree with the concept of law and order and speed limits. I should render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, a quotation which takes on extra meaning when the fine comes from Italy. In addition, I have the family name to uphold. How can I hold my head high in family gatherings if they know I am an outlaw? Besides, as Lucy points out, my cousins Claudio and Marco Del Terra are both police officers in Toscana, and if they read my blog, then I’ll be in trouble with my family and the cops at the same time!

Next: Final chapter in traffic ticket story?


  1. Do not pay! Speed laws are the SCAM! Speed limits are total BS. Speed cameras are the "legal" way to rob people.

    Do dispute with credit card regarding car rental charge for providing info. Car rental company can not proof validity of the ticket. So charge is a bogus for the credit card company. Money will be refunded.

  2. I got in august 2016 five tickets for entering a Zone of limited circulation (automatic cameras). I previously didn't know anything about this kind of fines. Today (July 2017) I got the first letter asking to pay for two tickets (2 X 108,05 €). In February 2017 I was already charged 5 fees for handling administrative costs (providing my name to the police) by the Car Rental co (5 times 61 € = 305 €). My suggestion: pay even if I consider these private collection agencies as being in the hands of mafiosi. Search the web (example: multi-fines Palermo, traffic tickets Italy in ZTL zones) and read the forums. There is no way of getting rid of them if you want to have peace over the next years. My suggestion: pay and forget it. Think about it as collateral damage. Italy doesn't care if you never come back. Did you see the summer crowds in Venice?

  3. Paul and Lucy
    What is your recommendation. 9 years ago I was ticketed in Rome for violating restricted area. I did not pay. I received dunning letter from collection agency and did not pay. I refused registered letter. Now I want to take a cruise out of Rome and plan to fly in to the main airport from the US. I have been to Europe several times since - no problem with passport control.
    Do you think I will have a problem caused by this issue with Italian passport control?
    Thanks for your advice.

  4. You will not have an issue with passport control. Inter-agency cooperation in not strong in Italy.


Comments welcome.