German Traffic Tickets
Whether you have just arrived in Germany or you have been here for a while, there is nothing quite like driving on the Autobahn. With frequent stretches without speed limits, driving in Germany brings out the lead-footed racecar driver in many of us. Imagine yourself on a gorgeous fall day, you’re enjoying a scenic drive through the beautiful German countryside when all of the sudden “flash” you’ve been caught by the traffic paparazzi. Although Germany is one of the few remaining countries without a general speed limit on some of parts of the Autobahn, it is also a country with many specific and frequently changing speed limits and other strictly observed traffic rules often regulated by traffic cameras. It is your responsibility to know and obey the rules. Remember, ignorance of the law (or the speed limit) is not an excuse!
If you get a ticket, here’s some basic information to help out.
Types of Tickets:
Warnings (Verwarnung) are for violations carrying fines of less than €40 and may be collected on the spot for certain tickets. If collected on the spot, make sure to get a receipt. Other warning tickets may be put on your windshield (e.g. parking violations) or may be sent by mail. If sent by mail, the warning will usually come through your unit (commander/supervisor) or to your private APO address. These warnings must be paid within one week, unless properly protested. Unlike in most states back home, no formal service of process is necessary in Germany. In other words, the issuing authority does not have to show that the warning reached you! Unpaid warnings will convert into penalty orders (see below) with added fees. To pay your fine, just take the ticket into your local bank and they will generate a direct deposit from your account to the issuing authority.
A penalty order (Bußgeldbescheid) is issued if the initial violation carries a fine €40 or more or if a warning ticket is not paid. Additionally, there is a administrative fee automatically added and, if applicable, fees for procedural or other costs, for example for testing blood. Unlike warnings, penalty orders require formal service of process.
You must receive the order via your U.S. Forces legal office if the infraction happened in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz. For Military members, civilians and their dependents in the KMC area, this means you must come to your respective Legal Assistance Center for service of process. Penalty orders from out of state may also be sent to you via mail, either to your APO, street address, or by another U.S. Forces legal office to your unit.
Penalty orders may be protested within two weeks of the time you are served. If your protest is denied and your issue goes before a German court, you may face higher fines plus possible court costs if you are convicted. You must pay within four weeks of the time you are served if you choose to not protest. Like warnings, penalty order fines are paid through your bank. Unpaid penalty orders are enforced through a German bailiff with the assistance of the legal office which brings additional costs with it.
If you receive a penalty order, you will have a chance to respond to the alleged traffic violation either at the scene or via a mailed questionnaire (Anhörung). The questionnaire is intended to provide the addressee a chance to respond to the allegation. It looks similar to a penalty order but contains no fine, only a description of incident. It will be addressed to the registered owner unless the German authority has already determined the owner was not the driver. If you were not the one driving, this is your opportunity to identify the driver and provide contact information. You are not required to make a statement; it is voluntary. However, German authorities will likely issue a penalty order if there’s no response.
If you receive a notice requesting you to come to the Law Center to retrieve a ticket do not ignore it! We will follow up through your supervisor, first sergeant or commander if necessary.
Failure to pay your ticket may result in the German Court ordering jail time to induce payment of an overdue fine. Jail time is not a substitute for the fine!