Traffic officers detained in Ruta 32 bribe claims

Did someone say that gigantic traffic penalties might be an invitation for police officers to accept instant fines? Well, they were right, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The agency said Thursday that its Sección Especializada de Tránsito detained seven members of the Policía de Tránsito on allegations that they were soliciting bribes from motorists who committed traffic violations, mostly on Ruta 32 north of San José.

Judicial police said the investigation has been going on since January and that there were nine cases formally filed.

The police officers who were arrested range in age from 30 to 58 years. They are accused of accepting from 10,000 to 20,000 colons ($20 to $40) from Costa Ricans and much more from foreign drivers who were pulled over.

Judicial agents said that the police would stake out areas of the highway that were poorly marked and snag motorists who passed in areas where this was not permitted. The police officers are accused of informing the motorists of the high financial penalties put in force by the new traffic law and encouraging them to settle the penalty on the spot. Foreigners sometimes paid up to $70 to avoid fines that may be as much as $250, judicial police said.

In fact, traffic fines are so disproportionate that the Sala IV constitutional court has been declaring them void, although not the fine for passing in a prohibited zone.

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