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The Costa Rica Ley de Transito Verily Sucketh!

April 21st, 2011

I use the words “verily sucketh” as it is Semana Santa (Easter week) and if not for the events of yesterday, I’d be happy about Easter and all the fun stuff…. grrr.

So there I was in town yesterday for a 2 minute stop at the drug store. I will admit that I did park next to a yellow curb, so I guess I am guilty, though there were no signs or warnings about how big a sin I was committing nor what was about to happen to me.

So…I grab my pills and start to chat up the regente (pharmacist) as we are old buddies.  Almost immediately he asks me where I parked.  I pointed and he says “RUN! They wait out there to get you and the ticket is HUGE!!”.  How huge I wonder as I am hauling my non-to-light butt outta his store and across the street.

Too Late.  There were two of them.  One was a municipal cop (generally pretty nice folks where I live)  and the other a much dreaded transit cop, also known as “tourism killers”.  As I am from the 60’s, you have no idea how hard it was to type transit cop and not transit pig… but those days are gone…. I guess…sigh.

So I try to be friendly which seldom works as nearly every “transito” I have ever met seems to express equal opportunity hatred to every living creature. It seems they all suffer from some form of terminal hemorrhoids that makes them the nastiest sourpusses on earth. I have no idea how many tourists these clowns have offended and caused never to return to Costa Rica, but it is a BIG number if I can judge from the many emails I receive complaining about them… but I digress!

Interested? read on!


Well the polite approach did not work, and I had no plan B (except venting, which never works) so I waited for him to come back with my license and the ticket.  He did and apparently trying to impress my with his English (if not his math skills) he says “It’s five hundred dollars”… smiling….  He is lucky we were not in the 60’s.  “Idiota dice wat????” says I. (Not really).  He says Gracias which I am pretty sure was his street language for “FU Gringo”. He also asked me to sign it which I luckily declined to do.  Turns out you should never sign those tickets.

So I look at the ticket… and while his math sucks, he is close enough.  It was for 231,000 colones or about $462.00 for you unwashed.

I about had a cow!  WTF????  That’s about 60+% of the monthly income of a Costa Rican family!  I knew the tickets were high for drunk driving and some other sins…. but a freaking parking ticket?  Not even in a hospital zone? Gimmee a break. I have avoided blogging about the new traffic laws as 1. They are stupidly expensive and 2. the legislature (asemblea) reviews the laws about every eight minutes… then does nothing.  They will eventually and eventually I will post something.

Anyway… I was was on fire. I started calling everyone I know trying to find out how to get out of the thing.  I learned some stuff which I will pass on!

Everyone, not surprisingly, is contesting their tickets and the Cosevi is buried in many thousands of contested cases.  I am happy for them!

More important, it seems that they have 2 years to resolve my complaint or I do not have to pay! Cool beans!

To contest, I must write a letter (Spanish, of course) detailing:

·          full name.
·          cedula or passport number
·          Number of ballot citation.
·          Date of citation.
·          The grounds for contesting.
·          Notification address: only two authorized ways:

  1. 1) Notification to address (only if your location is within a radius of 2 km (3 miles) from a unit responsible for resolving these disputed issues);
  2. 2) Notification by fax to anywhere in the country.

·          The appeal must be submitted by the person signing, unless authenticated by the signature came from a lawyer.

OK… so here is the deal.  If you get a ticket for anything, write the letter and jam the Cosevi.  Exact page is here. It is your only chance.

To tourists

If you are a tourist nailed with one of these outrageous tickets, I suppose you have the option of writing this letter before you leave the country or have an attorney write it for you.  If you rented a car, they WILL charge your credit card if they get charged…  and yes, it is in the small print. If two years pass… it will go away.  If you do have to pay, maybe you (luckily) used a credit card that has now expired.  That means the car rental agency must pay up and they will not be happy campers,

Next, send an email to every government agency you know (starting with the tourism people ) telling them they will get not one dime more of your tourist dollars until they bring the fines into line with reality.  If you are a drunk driver though, your only right should be prison and neutering.

Whatever you do, do not ignore this as they can refuse to renew your Costa Rica driver’s license if there are any outstanding tickets.

12 Responses to “The Costa Rica Ley de Transito Verily Sucketh!”

  1. teri on April 22, 2011 7:24 am

    THIS IS UNREAL!!! I have heard the fines were “unworldly” but I had NO IDEA it was to that EXTREME!! What are they thinking??? (joke)
    If they are going to impose these fines for parking where the curb is painted yellow, how in the hell are we suppose to know NOT to park there?
    Little story,,,, a non-local was bragging to me what a great parking spot she found in Jaco. When we returned to her car, I saw she had parked dead front at the bus stop. EVERYONE was looking at us. I explained “THAT’S WHY” no one parked there. It was before the stupid fines or they probably would have towed her car and Lord only knows the fines!

    Could you please post something about all these power outages?? What is WRONG WITH ICE??
    Ha! Ha! That should really get you going…..

  2. Limo Dan on April 22, 2011 7:55 am

    Lucky for me I have escaped the excessive speeding tickets ($50 U.S.seems to do the trick). What are the law makers thinking?? Drunk driving yes get them off the road and put them in jail and fine them heavily!! Parking on yellow curbs come on $462 U.S. dollars. I agree if you get a ticket jam it up in the court system. Thanks for your advise.

    Limo Dan

  3. Jim Gaudet on April 22, 2011 7:58 am

    Wow Tim that’s amazing. I can’t believe that a parking ticket can be that much,

    Bookmarking this one though in case I ever need to send a letter!

  4. Tim on April 22, 2011 11:31 am

    Power outages? I think maybe that’s a local thing for you… None here. Ummm… You DID pay your light bill… right Teri 🙂

  5. peter trombetta on April 22, 2011 10:32 pm

    Semana Santa. Let’s sock it once again to our own countrymen the Costa Ricans. Banks are regulated by the few elite. So the colone goes from 498 to 494 on the start of the holidays and it is going back up as I write, probably back to 498 by Monday. Oh the gas rose also on the first day of the holiday. Corruption, corruption where ever I go. I find it cheaper to take a taxi or bus anywhere in this country. Much cheaper than owning a car. My friend bought a 2005 Suzuki grand vitara with 90’000 miles on it for 8,000,2000 or about 16,000 US. In the US a 2011 brand new same car goes for about 10,000,000 or about 20,000 US. So who can afford the new cars here? Yep, you guessed it–the bank regulators. At least the weathers nice. Thinking about Panama. Much,much,much cheaper there. Oh,well.

  6. Mario on April 23, 2011 10:08 am

    The law has received plenty of criticism, but most people aren´t willing to give it up. Why? Because for once, the government has done something that actually had a positive effect on everyday life.

    Sounds weird, I know. But it’s true. With those insanely high violation prices, people really think twice before they do stuff. Before the new law I remember water cooler conversations about “I got ticketed for doing 90 in a 40 zone” always ended up with a laugh… now they all end in “ow”.

    People don’t cheer the new law on, surely. But, I think they all quietly agree it was necessary, fines and all. Including those huge fines for insignificant stuff: people quietly agree since it’s the first time the government has actually taken on the challenge of not only punishing serious offenses, but also those smaller annoyances that make everyone’s life that much harder.

    You were just parking for a little while in a yellow zone? Ever been in a rush and found another car “just parking for a little while” and creating a bottleneck that sets you back 15 minutes? It’s not so small an offense when you look at it that way.

    I wish you luck in contesting the ticket, but for now, don’t park in any more yellow zones 😉

    BTW, careful contesting those tickets. I believe if the court finds you’re guilty and turns down your request, you have to pay the fine plus interest, which can amount to quite a bit after two years of waiting…

  7. peter trombetta on April 23, 2011 2:42 pm

    The real truth about tickets. If the ticket is for 300,000 colones it will gain interest if left unpaid for two years. After two years the interest drops but not the 300,000 original fine. You can be refused a driver license renewal if left unpaid. It never goes away. Now if you happen to sell the car and the buyer does not investigate the vehicles background then the new buyer owns the 300,000 ticket on that vehicle. If the buyer does do his homework and finds a ticket violation on that vehicle then he can request that you pay the ticket before purchasing the car. Or he may request that you drop the price of the car and he would pay the ticket. The original fine does not go away folks. Pay me now or pay me later. Sooner or later you will pay. OUCH!

  8. Matthew on July 17, 2011 9:59 pm

    Heres a thought, stop parking in places your not supposed to, you dont like the ticket, dont do it??

    Why do people always complain when they break the law and get cought?

    Fines should be HIGH very HIGH to stop people from doing it (but can also result in cops wanting larger bribes), i do not know how many times someone is parked in a yellow painted area and it causes a traffice jam or some other issue.

    it is up to you as a driver to know the laws, they annouced on all local news channels increase in fines for various traffic related issues.

    Sorry if i sound cranky, but it really gets me when people complain cause doing something illegal results in a high fine…

    I hated how the fines for other thigns were high, people complained so they lowered them, i mean really? come on people , learn to follow laws and maybe this country wouldnt have such traffice problems and so many bad drivers causing accidents and blocking road ways all the time and laying on their horns all day long, the majority of people on the road in costa rica have zero respect for anyone else on the road with them.

  9. Tim on July 26, 2011 7:29 am

    Did you even read the post??

    “I will admit that I did park next to a yellow curb, so I guess I am guilty, though there were no signs or warnings about how big a sin I was committing nor what was about to happen to me.”

    I was blaming NOBODY. I admitted that I parked illegally.

    My complaint is that a $600.00 parking ticket is just stupid. That is what the final ticket turned out to be.

    *** $600.00 is the average MONTHLY income of a Costa Rica family!!! Fines should be hard… but they MUST reflect the financial ability to pay for those who receive them. This is a developing country charging a fine that I doubt you would have to pay in the USA!

    Finally, NO fines of any import have been lowered. Not one colon. The legislature sits on their collective butts and does nothing.

    While I always appreciate comments, please read my post completely before you jump on my case.

  10. Dick on July 31, 2011 6:18 pm

    I, too, received a crazy ticket for allegedly parking on a sidewalk. It was 117,360 colones (about $234.00). The “sidewalk” was unmarked on the property of a grocery store. But, I decided to learn my lesson and pay the ticket without protest.

    When I got to the Banco National to pay the ticket, they informed me of the fine print on the bottom of the ticket about a 30% surcharge for the orphans in Costa Rica (the PANI agency). So, I wound up paying 152,568 colones (about $305).

    To top it off, after the teller had taken my money, he laughed and said, “I got a ticket like that myself recently, but I protested it and didn’t pay anything.”

    But it worked, I haven’t parked on any “sidewalks” since. Although, I have noticed many unticketed cars parked in that same spot whenever I go to the grocery store.

  11. sarah on August 21, 2011 4:49 pm

    Can anyone tell me what the criteria is to qualify for Representante Status in CR

    Thank You all

  12. Kevin on October 14, 2011 12:06 pm

    this is going to be the death of CR. I have a transprtation business here in CR and have been in business for 16 years now. In the old days a ticket from the traffic police cost $20, but could be erased from memory with a $5 invitation to lunch. Now we are faced with giving up a life that I have worked hard to achieve all because of these idiots. I have a van service and was stopped on the aguacate a month or so ago, wearing my seatbelt and not speeding I thought I was fine. In my van were a bunch of tourists going to Jaco for some fun in the sun. The police asked me for my paperwork and asked if I was working. I repied yes, having been in a constant battle with the traffic cops but always winning in court as I am a hired driver. The I supplied him with my contract allowing me to offer service to my clients. They took the document and were talking amongst themsleves for a bit and came back to tell me that they weren’t going to give me a ticket for portiador but rather give me a ticket for a guy in the backseat that supposedly didn’t have his seatbelt on. I asked him if he had it on and he said yes but I have no way to know and I didn’t look. He told me the amount of the fine…237,000 colones. I did the math that plus the 30% Pani adds up to $600. Are you kidding me????? For a guy in the backseat???WTF????? I asked him if he thought that was fair, showed him a picture of my two year old daughter and asked him if he was ok with taking away her money. Guess what he told me, in spanish he said “let me see if I can explain this in a way you might understand,you are stealing money from the red taxis.” My business is legal and has been proven in a court of law as being legal. This infuriated me and seriously sent really evil thoughts of how I would like to do bodily harm to this public servant. In the end he lied to me as to where I could appeal the ticket, telling me to do it in Alajuela when I knew it was in Orotina.

    I have a bunch of travel agencies in the states that send me business. I asked one that has not sent me any clients in a long time. He told me point blank CR is blackballed bro. He said if any calls we tell them of the problems with the traffic tickets. One example was they sponsered a surf contest in Boca Barranca the Rabbit Kekai,he said that of the bunch 30% of the guys that rented cars were givin tickets OVER $1000. I will venture to say that NONE OF THEM WILL RETURN TO CR. My business has dropped to the point that I don’t know how I am going to feed my family. Let me just say that I moved here 18 years ago because of the freedom and relative inexpensive nature of the country. UTTERLY DISGUSTED