ZTL in Lucca one year later

Hi, Sorry to raise this issue again.... I'm in Canada, and just received an unregistered letter in the mail (well, 3 actually) detailing my three violations for entering a ZTL in Lucca. We were there exactly a year ago - is there really a statute of limitations on these things? What has people's experience been? Have you just paid the EMO and put it to rest, or avoided payment and never heard from there?
Thanks so much.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17710 posts

simone, It's not surprising to hear that the tickets took a year to reach you. Given the complexity of Italian bureaucracy and the fact that collections are often handed off to European Municipality Outsourcing, that amount of delay seems to be typical. I've noticed an increase in posts here recently concerning tickets received in Italy. I've often felt that given the current economic problems in Italy, authorities may become more "aggressive" in collecting from tourists, and this could be one explanation. As someone else mentioned, a recent post here described the experiences of another person that received a ZTL ticket. He was eventually contacted by a U.S.-based Collection Agency, which of course could have implications with one's credit rating. As I recall, by the time the "dust had settled", he paid over $500 to settle the tickets. I don't believe there's a "Statute of Limitations" for this sort of thing. I don't know how aggressive they will be with residents of Canada (ie: employing a Collection Agency), or whether there might be repercussions if you return to Italy? The "usual" advice here seems to be "handle it according your conscience". Too much time has passed to appeal or try to have the fines reduced, so I'd just pay them and get it over with. BTW, how much were the tickets? This is one reason why I prefer to use rental cars "strategically" and travel mostly by train. You may find it interesting to read this post in the "Trip Reports" section of the HelpLine..... www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/88759/italy-the-trip-that-keeps-on-taking.html Good luck and hopefully future happy travels!

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2365 posts

I think the story keeps developing. There is a statute of limitations for Italian and EU citizens, but as far as has been determined, not for overseas visitors. There was a post back a couple months where someone stated that a collection agency in the US was eventually given their fine for collection, Canada may have some laws that might protect you in this regard, but likely a legitimate fine would be allowed to be pursued by a collection agency. I believe the concensus anymore is swallow it and pay the fines. If you feel that you were in the right (had a legitimate reason like a hotel for being there) then you may try contacting the hotel to act on your behalf, but at this late date they may not have many options.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

Each ticket was over 100 Euro, and all received within minutes of each other. We were clearly just lost - it's too bad there isn't a limit of one per hour or something reasonable. I don't exactly remember the circumstances, but we only were in Lucca for a brief afternoon trip. Such a shame it cost us so much! I have read elsewhere that there is a year time limit in which the Italians can contact you, and that it must be by registered mail or else there is no proof of them notifying you. It is a shame that there isn't more of an explanation on the ticket with more English text describing the infraction and how to possibly reduce your fine through cooperation.
We are moving out of Toronto in the next month and will be interested to see if these tickets follow us to our new address. If any has tried to avoid paying the fines or appealed based on the passage of time, please let me know how your experience has been. Thanks to others for their comments.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5732 posts

Remember Community Guideline #8 for this board reads as follows: 8. Do not help people break laws. Speaking of the existence of law breaking is OK. Sharing how to circumvent visa restrictions, scam hotels, or perform other illegal acts is prohibited.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

Sorry - I was just inquiring about people's experiences. Didn't mean to offend or break discussion board rules!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4857 posts

Simone, It seems you didn't come to this board until after you received these tickets, and now you just want to rant about the mistake YOU made and figure out how to avoid paying. I am talking about your discussion here and in the Trip Report section. It's too bad you didn't inquire about driving in Italy BEFORE your trip, as ZTL's are a much discussed topic here. The fact that you received 3 tickets for driving in restricted areas is no different than if you had gotten 3 speeding tickets in a short period. If I am speeding and get a ticket, can I then speed again and be exempt? No. I hope this is a cautionary tale to those who choose to drive in towns that have ZTL's.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

Wow - Andrea! Thank you for taking the time out of your day to share your knowledge with me. You are such a gem!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4857 posts

You're welcome! Of course I know you were being sarcastic. The point of my post was to point out that you didn't bother to find out what the rules are for driving in Italy, yet you don't want to take responsibility for the fact that you broke those rules. This is why many people take the trains in Italy. I only had a car while in Tuscany, didn't stay inside a town, and returned the car at the airport in Florence to avoid the infamous ZTL's there. While driving to various hill towns I looked carefully for the ZTL signs. At one point I saw I was approaching one and quickly turned around before entering it. Making sure you know the rules are YOUR responsibility.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

We drove around Italy for a month. We had our car with us in Florence, Rome and Milan. We never had a problem. We made a mistake in Lucca. I knew about ZTLs before going, but wasn't prepared for them in Lucca and mistakenly drove into a prohibited zone and had to go through it again to exit. The purpose of my post was to get some helpful feedback. Not to give you a podium to express your thoughts and disapproval. I honestly don't even understand why you took the time out of your day to even type what you wrote - it was useless and uninformative. Hopefully you find a better use for your time going forward. If anyone has anything positive or instructive to share I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4857 posts

Sorry, but sometimes when you ask a question you don't get the answer you want. Hopefully someone else will learn from your mistake.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2371 posts

A previous thread in ZTL fines, there are many here, did mention a statute of limitations. I don't remember the details, but it seemed to be quite lengthy and didn't start until the authorities had your contact info from the rental agency (IIRC). That your tickets arrived a year after your trip seems to be within the limits mentioned then. As noted above, at least one poster has reported getting his unpaid fines turned over to a collection agency. That should serve as a warning as to what can happen if you don't pay your tickets. Andrea's posts may not have been full of tact, but they are essentially correct. You did violate the ZTL laws, even if un-intentionally. I'd be just as unhappy as you are if it was me, but the right thing to do is to pay the fines. I really do think RS should publically state that everyone that rents a car in Itally should just factor in the cost of some ZTL fines on top of the rental and insurance costs. A lot of people seem to get them.

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

The statute of limitations is 5 years from the date the offense was committed. The time limit for the Italian traffic authorities to send a notice of infraction to drivers who are non-residents of Italy is 360 days from the date of the infraction. EMO is a collection agency which collects for over 150 Italian municipalities. EMO stands for "European Municipality Outsourcing." It's all explained in great detail here: http://tinyurl.com/87d76vz Additionally, the FAQ's on EMO's website answer a lot of common questions: http://tinyurl.com/c4aw8dz

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

Yes, that's what I have read elsewhere. It has been over a year since the infraction so I think I am in the clear.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5732 posts

Be very careful about legal advice that you read or receive over the internet. You have no way of knowing if the advice is still accurate (or ever was, for that matter). For example, about that 360 day limit: the FAQ on that EMO website reads as follows: According the Italian Traffic Code the police have 360 days after the date of the violation or identification of the owner of the vehicle within which to notify fines to foreigners. In the event of rented vehicles, the 360 days start as from the date of identification of the holder of the rental agreement at the time of the violation, or from the date of receipt of the personal data sent by the car rental company. It's not 360 days from the date of the infraction. It's your credit rating that is at risk if you choose not to pay. Imagine how much havoc can be wreaked by having something appear on your credit report that would involve international action to clear up. But we all get to make our own decisions and then deal with the consequences.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

I have noted the rulings I am referencing them in my letter. It very clear states the law. I would have been held accountable for my violations had I been informed of them before the 360 day expiration. I have never dodged payments before and have a perfect credit rating. However, in this case I feel like I am following what the law states and not paying.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

The text on the EMO website is actually incorrect. The Italian Highway code states 360 from the date of the violation. Others have pointed this out to the EMO when appealing their case and their fines have been dropped.

Posted by Bob
Gettysburg, PA
1364 posts

" If anyone has anything positive or instructive to share I would really appreciate " Sure, pay your debt.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8724 posts

simone, I am ... not paying. Just curious, simone, because as the fine is ignored the penalty escalates (quite a lot) is it your intention to ignore it forever or is there a level at which you will decide the stakes are too high to ignore? I don't know the $US to $CDN conversion these days but when a prior poster reached $US 500 and the collection folks were "knocking on the door" he paid. With $1,500 at stake would that get your attention or would you tough it out? What about if bailiffs came around, or the sheriff? I don't think we've had anybody let it get to that stage here. Can you let us know how it goes? - = - BTW - you may be on a sticky wicket thinking your interpretation of the law will protect you. You say you were there exactly a year ago. Undoubtedly the car place won't have turned over your detail the same day, probably not for weeks. Did you notice what day the charge from the car place for providing your information was posted to your card? Lucca probably received the information back after the car place took the payment, and that's when you should start the clock. I'm sorry the expensive mistake was made. Lucca is a lovely place. We really like it, excellent gelato, really nice walks both around and through the town. We always park outside the walls.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

I have sent letters to the prefect and to the EMO outlining my case. I am not just simply going to ignore it. I will let you know how it proceeds from here. I never received any charges from the rental agency on my card. The law also states that the clock starts ticking at the time of the infraction. It is the police's responsibility to proceed with their prosecution in a timely manner.

Posted by Steve
Gaston, Oregon, USA
869 posts

Simone, I just want to add one thing. A while back this type of thing came up, only it was about not paying a different type of fine. But it was a great lesson about the "long arm of the law" in Italy. In the past "collecting data" about fines that were not paid, did not happen. ( a few years ago my brother got a ticket in Italy, received notices at home, decided not to pay, and even went back to Italy, and nothing happened to him.) But that was in the past. Now everything is automated, and they are even linking unpaid fines to passports, and "grab" people when they use their passports. Ron-in-Rome told this story: "One of our British friends was busted as they headed through passport control at FCO for outstanding tickets so it can happen. Most of the time the Italian authorities just wave you through at the airport, or even fail to enter a violation in their computers... but it only takes ONE TIME and your problems just got a lot worse! Having been to Italian police stations for paperwork, registering, etc. where NO ONE seems to speak English I'd hate to have to communicate about an issue like this... where it's pretty cut and dry that you violated the law, whether intentional or not" Caveat Emptor!

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

Hi Steve, Thanks for the response. I know that things have definitely charged in the last few years, and that having things just go away doesn't happen so often anymore. I wrote to the EMO regarding the 360 day expiration and they responded in a positive manner, agreeing that the fines should be cancelled. Hopefully they follow up on this and I don't receive any further letters.

Posted by Steve
Gaston, Oregon, USA
869 posts

Simone, please keep us posted on your experiences, especially on the Italian statute of limitations and the method of appeal. As with any alleged violation of a law, there are regulations and procedures that must be followed. The failure of either party to follow these "rules" can have an effect on the final outcome. The person mentioned in previous accounts, that was subjected to a Bill Collector, was illegally harassed; the Bill Collector did not follow the U.S rules and regulations. Your ignorance of the location of the ZTL zone does not constitute an excuse to not follow the law, and pay the resulting fine; but again, both parties must follow legal rules and procedures to finalyze the process.

Posted by Tammy
Toronto, ON, Canada
1 posts

This has been such a nightmare. I just found this forum today. Until now I did not know what ZTL tickets were, and thought it was a scam. Okay, okay, I'm educated now... but none the less, even having the forum advice might not have helped. After all, the forum says Tuscany is the one place you want to rent a car.
You see, I rented the car to stay in Tuscany for two weeks, and got nabbed trying to RETURN the car at the train station in Rome. And I wasn't even driving... my former boyfriend was. And now they have a collection agency bothering me... and they've increased the fine to $650!!!! Quite a lot considering I wasn't the one driving and I didn't know I had done anything wrong for almost a year after. I just finished 2 years at school retraining to try to get a job after my previous career disappeard, and to try to make ends meet rent out one of the rooms in my house to a student for about 650 a month -- and I have to feed him for that, so it's not all profit -- so this bill is DEVASTATING. Anyway, I wish a) signs near tourist places like train stations were in English and b) they couldn't arbitrarily increase fines to more than double. That's like a 100 per cent interest rate. And for those who are going to say ignorance is no excuse... yes, well, there should still be some basic fairness. Doubling and tripling fines they don't even tell you about for almost a year is just plain unfair.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17710 posts

@Tammy, It's interesting to hear that the authorities in Italy have resorted to using Collection Agencies in Canada. I've heard about this happening in the U.S., but this is the first case I've heard about in Canada. Unfortunately most people don't receive notice of the fines until well after the period to contest them has expired. It's also a problem to deal with the bureaucracy in Italy, which typically only functions in Italian. As a Collection Agency is involved, I suspect your options are limited. This is one reason why I primarily prefer to travel by Train or Bus in Italy. It's good that you've discovered the HelpLine, as you'll be able to use the knowledge of the very well travelled group here to plan your next trip. Good luck!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2420 posts

simone and Tammy, ZTL zones are usually posted clearly (with flashing lights in many places). Even popular tourist destinations in the US and Canada don't have signs translated into more than two languages. Doubling fines is not unheard of in the US - note "work in progress, fines doubled" signs on freeways, for example. I've traveled with friends who live in Europe and rent cars for periods of our travel, but they always park in garages or parking lots just outside the city, unless loading/unloading luggage in which case the hotels/b&bs take the car's tag number for a very brief exemption. Tammy, if your name was on the rental agreement, it doesn't matter that you were not the driver. simone, sometimes responses on this forum can seem brusque, but it's a public forum and everyone can express their opinion (within community guidelines).

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8724 posts

Tammy's experience is a great example of why it is so important to become familiar with a different country's driving laws and signage before travel. As to signs in English, I didn't see much signage in Toronto in Italian when I used to run up there every month or so in the 1990s. Has that changed? I also remember from my trip in April that ZTL roads in Rome have large illuminated signs over the lanes when the limits are in force. I was on on foot and bus at the time but noticed that they were huge. Much bigger than the ones in Florence. Tammy, have you asked your ex for any of the money for the fine?