Sunday, November 16, 2014

What will happen if you don’t pay your ticket for a traffic violation in Italy?

When I received a traffic ticket while driving a rental car in Italy in 2011, I wondered what would happen if I didn’t pay the fine. I read advice in several online forums, but it was just that—advice. No one seemed to truly know what would happen. A few people said they did not pay and nothing had happened yet, but the bureaucracy in Italy works slowly, so I realized that something could have happened later and the people just didn’t update their old forum comments. I have now met a man who was ticketed in Italy about four and a half years ago in Italy and didn’t pay. Mark thought the incident was long behind him, but in the past year, he and his wife have been receiving persistent calls from a collection agency in the United States.
Mark had received four ZTL (limited traffic area zone) tickets; three were in Milan, all in the same spot, as he circled in a round-about trying to determine which was the correct exit.

He did not pay the fines, reasoning that
it’s not fair to give tickets to drivers who can’t read the signs or to give three tickets for the same violation.” Mark didn’t even have to pay the car rental agency a fee when they tried to charge his credit card. The bank called him and said that someone from Italy was trying to charge his card months after his trip was over, and he told the credit card representative that the charges must be fraudulent, since he had not made any recent purchases in Italy. Then he had his credit card number changed.

He realized when he received the traffic tickets in the mail that the attempt to charge his credit card must have been related. Several times he received registered letters sent from Italy, but he refused to sign for them, and they were returned. When he hadn’t received any more communications from Italy for many months, he thought the whole incident was behind him.

But a collection agency started calling earlier this year, sometimes multiple times in a day, sometimes only fifteen minutes apart all through the afternoon or evening. He usually didn’t answer the phone, and occasionally someone at the agency left a voice mail explaining the purpose of the calls. One time his wife did accidentally answer the phone, and she was told that the agency would take legal action forcing her husband to appear before a federal magistrate.

Mark is still not concerned, because even if taken to court, he would ask for proof that he had committed a violation. “All they sent me was a photo of the car license plate,” he said. “They have no photo of me at the wheel.”

He also has heard that once five years has passed, it will be too late for Italy to continue pursuing the tickets and he will be completely off the hook. He does concede that it would be wise for him not to return to Italy, at least until this five-year period is up. “Otherwise,” he joked, “I might be joining Amanda Knox in an Italian jail.” Not likely, since Amanda also has the good sense not to return to Italy right now.

Update, March 2017: Mark said: "Five years to the day the calls stopped. We haven't heard from anyone since . . . the courts or credit collectors. The next big test will be when we head back to Italy!"

I have written several other blogs on traffic tickets in Italy:


  1. Interesting. 5 years fron date of offence and they will nit be able to proceed? EU should standadise this aspect of Italian fine system. As I understand it, if you really want to appeal, ot has to be in Italian. Strange way of welcoming tourists. Most countries are lenient with tourists.

  2. It's extortion. We just got one for €362 for going 82km in a 70km zone. We had a GPS that warned us about all the automatic speed control traps and we were extra careful about driving slowly. We also got a restricted zone ticket earlier related to the return location of the Avis car. Avis has a drop off location in Venice which is in a restricted zone and they don't tell you that you will be fined months later for going there. Will never drive again in that country, they take advantage of tourists.

    1. Same thing happened to us trying to get to the rental car return. My husband got four tickets totaling over $1600!!! We went ahead and paid them because we go back about every 3-4 years and didn't want to risk it. WHY, when the rental agency knows where you're going to return your car do they not tell you that you'll need the special sticker?

    2. That's terrible!! Where were you returning the car? I'll want to avoid driving in that city!

  3. Thanks very nice blog!

  4. So are you saying it's ok to NOT pay the fine? The camera's taking pictures have no idea who is driving (whether an Italian or a tourist).

    1. Well, that is what Mark is saying, anyway. I suppose the police *might* prevail if they could show evidence that the photo was taken on the same date that the car was in Mark's possession (and proving the dates of possession as well). It is unlikely that the Italian police and the collection agency would go to this trouble. And since Mark was never called before a federal magistrate, as the collection company threatened, the statement was indeed just a threat.


Comments welcome.