It was just a matter of time before something like this transpired. Most of us who drive automobiles in Germany will almost certainly receive a speeding ticket or a parking ticket at some point. Perhaps you misinterpreted German traffic or parking signage, which can be perplexing to expats and visitors.
Let’s look at some of the red flags and what you may expect from the procedure if you receive a fine.
In Germany, dealing up parking fines and driving penalties is a common occurrence.
In German legalese, both parking fines and small speeding offences are referred to as Ordnungswidrigkeiten. In layman’s terms, this indicates that admitting guilty and paying the fine usually means the case is ended. Minor offences do not require a court appearance. A word about speed camera apps and radar detectors: You may be familiar with the Waze App, which among its features is the ability to indicate speed cameras so that you can escape them. In Germany, these functions are currently illegal. Although Waze is still operational in Germany at the time of writing, German users are no longer able to input data on speed trap locations.
You got a fine, but you don’t live in Germany?
Even if you don’t live locally, you must still pay (obviously) according to fine calculator. However, depending on your situation, the repercussions of not doing so will vary… For charges passed on to you by rental vehicle companies, they will normally transfer the fine to you and charge you a “administrative fee” of between €25 and €40. (or pocket lining, if you will). If you do not even pay, they will not only pursue you for payment of their administrative fee, but they will also provide the details of the licensed driver to the authorities that issued the fine if you don’t.
If you have an European or Swiss-registered vehicle and were fined while travelling via Germany to another state, most European Union countries have reciprocity agreements.
Because fines aren’t wiped off, you’re at the mercy of how aggressive a police officer or municipality is in pursuing this, which varies depending on the severity of the offence. The only surefire method to get rid of it is to pay it!
Is it possible to pay with my credit card online?
Even though it is the twenty-first century, you are unlikely to be able to pay the fine using a credit card. In this aspect, Germany is still trapped in the 1990s. The only way to pay these fines is to make a bank transfer to the relevant police or municipality’s bank account. If you’re not from a Eurozone country, the best (and cheapest) option to make this transfer is to utilise a money transfer provider like CurrencyFair or Transferwise.
Both are substantially less expensive than going to the bank. They do not charge commission and will also provide you with the current interbank exchange rate.
The Ordnungsamt, which works for the city / municipality, is in charge of issuing parking fines in Germany. These officers are effectively a second-tier municipal police unit with the authority to issue fines and deal with minor disturbances but not to make arrests. The revenue is then collected by the municipality’s road traffic department (Strassenverkehrsamt).
What can you anticipate?
Well, it all depends on the nature of the offence.
Minor parking violations in Germany, such as parking without a permission in a residents-only parking zone or parking on the street in a legal parking zone without a ticket (or an expired ticket), are usually regarded minor offences. In most circumstances, they will be less expensive than a restaurant dinner.
Depending on the circumstances, the fine may be higher if you obstruct traffic or people. Blocking access to a parking or unloading space, impeding a bus or cycling lane, or fully blocking a pavement are some of the more serious (and costly) situations. All of them could result in higher fines and, in certain situations, your automobile being towed, depending on the circumstances. If your automobile is towed, you’ll have to pay a release charge in addition to the fine. It’s not uncommon for both of them to cost more than €250.
How do I appeal a parking ticket?
If you believe you have been unfairly fined, you can dispute it without incurring any penalties or disadvantages other than the time and effort spent doing so. Unlike in some nations, where appealing a parking ticket is like playing poker since you lose your early payment rebate if your complaint is denied, the German approach is different. You must write to the issuing authority (in German) explaining why you believe the fine is incorrect. If they uphold the fine after examining your complaint, you will receive a severely written letter relating to the rules that uphold the offence and usually demanding payment within 14 days.
Failure to pay at this point will result in a large increase in the fine. Finally, if you still maintain your innocence, you can inform them of your intention to defend yourself in small claims court. When I received a warning for not parking in an approved space on a car park at a ski resort a few years ago, I successfully contested the fee. Due to the snow cover on that day, the markers were not visible, therefore I wrote to them refusing the fine on these grounds, and I never received any further warnings to pay up. However, think twice before engaging a lawyer to contest a relatively minor fine. The expenditures can quickly run into the hundreds of euros. Unless you’ve done your homework and are very convinced, you’ll win, it’s more hassle than it’s worth.