‘Tis the season to pay those old traffic fines, ministry says

Ebenezer Scrooge said it well: “Humbug, a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every 25th of December!”

The prickly Dicken’s character was talking about Christmas, but he also could have been talking about the marchamo if such a tax existed in 19th century England. The deadline for payment is not Christmas but Jan. 1.

The government, the primary pocket picker, announced Wednesday exactly what many motorists feared. Paying off traffic tickets is obligatory for paying the marchamo or annual road tax.

The marchamo varies depending on the value of the vehicle. But the traffic tickets are generally considered to be outrageous. A driver can easily run up fines totally $1,000 in one traffic stop. Plus sales tax is levied on the fines. Motorists facing high fines have been hoping the legislature would modify the law.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said Wednesday that the new traffic law that began to go into effect two years ago requires that traffic fines be paid before the marchamo can be issued. The fines are noted in a data base that is available to those accepting payment for the marchamo.

Motorists can dispute traffic fines, and many do. In that case, the fine is not assessed until the dispute is resolved. Motorists have 10 days to dispute the ticket.

The ministry also noted that fines run with the vehicle, and someone who purchases a used car can sometimes be stuck with the former owner’s traffic fines if the buyer failed to do homework. Officials will not waive such fines, they said.

Since March traffic police have issued 244,000 tickets and only 37,000 have been contested. March was when the new fine structure went into effect.

Meanwhile, the legislature that took office in May is slowly considering if it will make changes in the traffic fines that are being called draconian. A number of fines are 293,400 colons or about $578. Considering the violation, there could be multiple fines at a single traffic stop.

In fact, police do not seem to be enforcing the new law with vigor. Violations include talking on a cell telephone, going through a stoplight and failing to have a special seat for a child are observed every day.

Usually the fines are assessed when there is an accident or when a driver happens into one of the traffic police checkpoints. Drunk driving is punished harshly, too, but lawmakers continue to debate at what level of blood alcohol is drunk.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros has a place on itsWeb site where vehicle owners can find out how much they have to pay for the road tax. Also possible is paying online, but the operator still has to pick up the appropriate decal and paperwork.

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