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Traffic Citations

We just got back from a two week trip to France where we rented a car, and I was notified by Hertz that they provided my name and address to a police agency requesting said information for an unknown traffic violation. Not sure what that might be, but wondering what ramifications, if any, there are for ignoring any fine levied by the French authorities. Does anyone have some helpful information to share on this topic?

Posted by
10344 posts

This Forum gets a similar inquiry several times a year, usually from travelers who have driven in Italy.
A rule of this website (which is strictly enforced, I understand) is that no one here is allowed to give you advice that suggests or encourages you to violate the law.

Based on Italian procedure, you'll get two separate things:
a) Hertz will charge your credit card a fee for providing your contact info to the local police; this is NOT the fine.
b) At some future time (probably in the next few months), you'll receive the actual fine, hopefully with some details so that you'll know what you're being charged with, this will presumably come from some branch of French traffic enforcement.

Few, if any, of us here know what might actually happen if you don't pay the fine. Previously when this issue has come up, it has been suggested that there could be at least 2 types of sanctions:
1) That the local police will eventually turn this over to a collection agency (after the fine has substantially increased for non-payment); and/or
2) That it's possible the unpaid violation would be on French computer records and might come up if you, in the future, went back to France.

Posted by
7025 posts

My recommendation would be, when you get the actual citation and notice of the fine amount, just pay it. Would you just ignore and not pay a traffic fine in your home country, whatever that is? If you delay in paying it the fine usually just goes up. Here a few of the previous threads on this subject.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/traffic-tickets-in-france

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/traffic-violation-notice-6-months-after-trip

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/french-traffic-violation

Posted by
3688 posts

Unfortunately, we are familiar with the French citation system but, I don't know what happens if you do not pay because we paid. I believe that it is only a matter of time before an enterprising collection agency gets in touch with French government and starts collection efforts in the US. By the time the citation gets to you, penalties may have started to accrue. In that case, I would pay only the base fine. You can pay online. The citation will have information about the date and place of the infraction. Make sure to check that carefully because mistakes have happened with identifying the renter of the vehicle.

Posted by
6489 posts

If you were on an autoroute you might have been caught speeding by a camera. That's all I can think of that wouldn't have involved an encounter with a policeman or at least a parking ticket.

Like the other posters, I'd urge you not to ignore any fine. You don't know what the downstream consequences might be, but they couldn't be good.

Posted by
5697 posts

France is very efficient -- you should get your ticket in the mail pretty quick, with clear instructions on how to pay via the internet. Just pay the money and move on. You've now joined a not-so-elite club of travellers :-)

Posted by
15146 posts

I would add a 3rd possibility. That the rental company might be eventually held responsible to pay the fine if you don't pay, and, in such case, they might charge your credit card for that fine.

I read however that several local law enforcement authorities in Europe have engaged international collection agencies with offices in North America to go after unpaid fines by foreign residents.

I don't think these collection companies would actually take you to court in a US court to obtain a judgment against you if you don't pay, simply because the cost of doing so would greatly exceed the amount you owe with a simple traffic violation. I also don't know International law enough to know if a US court would even enforce such judgement for a fine incurred overseas as that would be regulated by the existence of international agreements.

What the international collection agency will try to do for sure is hassle you (they all do) to see if they can get some money out of you. If you still don't pay, whether they might be able to report that unpaid debt to one of the Credit Bureaus and negatively affect your credit record I don't know. First of all the collector must know your social security number to be able to report you.

Posted by
5835 posts

Why would anybody with half a brain pay for a crime that can't be proven?

For what this free advice is worth....
http://english.controleradar.org/speeding-in-france.php

Note that throwing away the citation isn't a good option for rental cars where you signed a contract addressing law infractions.

If you want to contest, you will have to fill in the form joined with
the fine. You may also have to pay a deposit, depending on your
request. Contestation without deposit
- The vehicle has been stolen or destroyed before the speeding event. You just have to prove it (police report, etc).
- Another person was driving. You can denounce that person by giving his/her complete identity. Don't lie, it'll make things way worse!

Contestation with deposit Any other reason (or the above reasons
should you be unable to produce the proof) will require you to pay a
deposit of 135 euros. The deposit, the form and the reasons of the
contestation (letter) all have to be sent together (address will be
indicated on the form).

Paying the deposit doens't mean the money is lost. However contesting
for the sake of contesting may result in a higher fine. You have been
advised! The deposit will be refunded should you ask for it and only
if :
- The infraction is dismissed by the police, or
- The police doens't dismiss the case, but afterwards a judge discharge you. Payment of the deposit To pay the deposit, you have 45
days after the date when the fine has been sent (not received). Being
a foreigner, you may be granted another month. You can pay using :
- Stamps (timbre fiscal) that can be bought in France newstands and some pubs. Stick them to the form and send the whole to the address on
the form;
- Check payable to the trésor public (treasury), to be sent to the address on the form.
- Credit card by calling 0820 11 10 10 (0,12 euros TTC per minute). You can ask to receive an invoice;
- Credit card by connecting to www.amendes.gouv.fr. You will be able to print an invoice.

Asking for your picture Send a letter asking for the picture of the
infraction to the address on the form. Add to that letter :
- a copy of the vehicle registration papers
- a copy of your ID (or passport)
- a copy of the fine or of the form sent to you
- a stamped envelope with your direction.

Posted by
32200 posts

Bob,

There have been reports here on the Forum indicating that Italian authorities have hired North American collection agencies, so it's possible the French will do the same. When the actual ticket arrives, I'm sure the violation will be specified so you'll know what you were ticketed for.

This is one of the risks of renting cars in Europe, and one reason I prefer to use trains and other public transit whenever possible. In the same situation, I'd pay it and move on.

Posted by
7025 posts

"Why would anybody with half a brain pay for a crime that can't be proven? Until the French authorities show you proof of what you did wrong, I'd stand pat."

Who says it can't be proven? When you get the notice from the rental agency it is just to say that they have given your name and address to the French traffic police dept (and are charging your cc an agreed upon amount for that, usually about €40 - it's in the rental contract you signed). After that you will receive the actual citation and what the fine is that you're expected to pay. That's when you find out what the citation was for, and more than likely they will have proof, usually in the form of a photo from a traffic camera. At that point you follow their instructions to pay the fine, or take whatever consequences there might be for ignoring it.

At this point in time the OP has to 'stand pat' because he/she hasn't been informed yet what the infraction was or what the fine is.

Posted by
8293 posts

Bob, is it okay with you if I refuse to pay a fine when I visit Texas?

Posted by
10176 posts

Can't be proven--very funny. Somehow the radar and speed camera have proven it. Now if the car renter can prove he/she wasn't the one driving....

Posted by
2916 posts

Since you apparently weren't stopped by the police, and since it's France, which as far as I know doesn't have all those resident-only roads in city centers like Italy does, you most likely were flagged by a camera for speeding. Unless you can prove your car wasn't there, I'd suggest paying it as soon as you can to avoid increases in the fine.

Posted by
4152 posts

We got two citations in France in June, 2012 and got the paperwork within 3 months of returning home. They clearly stated in French how much over the limit we were going. And they gave a website to go to for paying the fine with a credit card. After using Google Translate to be sure I understood the details, I was somewhat concerned that the website would also be in French, but it was in English. Paying was easy.

We should have paid more attention to the signs showing that there was a camera ahead when we were driving. We just add the cost of the tickets to the cost of our car rental and move on.

At least the French are very efficient with this. It took almost 3 years for the Swiss ticket from June, 2011 to get to us and the cost to transfer the money for the fine was higher than the fine itself!

Posted by
2916 posts

"At least the French are very efficient with this. It took almost 3 years for the Swiss ticket from June, 2011 to get to us and the cost to transfer the money for the fine was higher than the fine itself!"
So much for the vaunted Swiss efficiency.

Posted by
11613 posts

JG, the fine hasn't arrived yet, so no photo attached. Wait until Dayton gets traffic cameras (like Toledo has), violate the law and then let us know how you handle that.

For the OP, proof is on the way.

Posted by
8423 posts

"Innocent until proven guilty" is an American concept that is not a universal principle.

Posted by
5835 posts

.... an American concept....

In these United States, driving is a privilege, not a constitutional right. States grant you the driver, the privilege of driving after you demonstrate the required skills and knowledge and are allowed to exercise that privilege provided that you continue to follow the rules and regulations governing that privilege.

The privilege of driving requires taking responsibility including carrying required insurance and following the laws regulating the practice of driving a motor vehicle.

And if you do the crime, pay the fine!

Posted by
4385 posts

I'm not surprised the French have a quick and efficient system for English speakers to pay traffic fines, seeing as how their neighbor across the Channel is their biggest source of visitors. And if you read any car magazines, you know that journalists driving on the continent incur quite a few traffic infractions.

Posted by
8423 posts

Keith, I meant presumption of innocence in the context of traffic laws. Experience of being immediately fined on the spot for speeding in Germany taught me that. No court, judge or jury involved.

Here in my home town, red-light cameras are being successfully challenged for legality, the argument being that no human being witnessed the event. I dont think that argument would hold in Europe.

Posted by
7025 posts

"I meant presumption of innocence in the context of traffic laws."

Actually in the US in reference to traffic citations you are presumed guilty until proven innocent. You need to contest in court and prove your innocence, not the other way around.

Posted by
49 posts

Thanks everyone. When I know what the actual violation was, probably need to pay it once I can confirm it really was me. And Norma, if you come to Texas and get a traffic citation, you are free to ignore it, don't believe the Texas Rangers (not the baseball team) will track you down :)

Posted by
8293 posts

Thanks, Bob. No plans to visit your fair state, however. I am more drawn to France and the UK at this time in my life.

Posted by
4385 posts

also keep in mind that if you don't deal with the citation, Hertz will likely (have to) do it for you and trust me, they will charge you for the "courtesy." Because they still have your credit card number.

I had a Hertz car in Boston once and got a ticket, when I returned the car and started to tell the clerk about a ticket she just snapped at me "that is your responsibility" until I told her it was because the registration on HER car was expired. She had no reply.