It was bound to happen.

At some point, most of us who own cars in Germany are probably going to get slapped with a speeding ticket or a parking fine.

The latter are especially common, as signs and parking regulations are often confusing to expats and visitors.

Let’s take a look at some of the watch-outs and explain what you should expect from the process if you get a fine.

 

Dealing with German parking fines and speeding tickets

 

Both parking fines and minor speeding offences are considered as Ordnungswidrigkeiten in German legal speak. In simple terms, this means pleading guilty by paying the fine usually results in the matter being considered closed. A court appearance is not necessary for minor offences.

Received a fine and you’re not resident in Germany?

 

Even though you don’t live here, you still have to pay (obviously). Although the consequences if you don’t will differ, depending on your situation…

For fines passed onto you by rental car companies, they will typically forward the fine onto you and charge you anything from €25 and €40 for the privilege as an “administration fee” (or pocket lining, if you will).

They will not only chase you to pay their admin fee but also pass on details of the registered driver to the authority that issued the fine if you don’t pay up.

If you have an EU or Swiss registered car and you received the fine while travelling through Germany to another country, then most European Union countries have reciprocity agreements with one another.

Fines don’t get written off, so you’re at the mercy of how belligerent a police officer or municipality wants to be in chasing this up, depending on the severity of the offence.

Paying it is the only failsafe way to make it go away!

I’m not a lawyer, so please don’t ask me what the consequences are of not paying.

Can I just pay using my credit card online?

 

Despite it being the 21st century, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to pay the fine by credit card.

Germany is still firmly stuck in the 1990s in this regard. Paying these fines is usually only possible by bank transfer to the relevant police or municipality’s bank account.

If you’re not from a Eurozone country, then the best (and cheapest) way will be to use a money transfer service such as CurrencyFair or Transferwise to make this transfer. Check out this short PDF guide from Transferwise for a step by step how to make your transfer.

Both options are much cheaper than using your bank.

They don’t charge commission and will also give you the interbank exchange rate. CurrencyFair will also waive the fee for your first 3 transfers using the links in this article.

 

Parking Fines

 

German parking fines are mostly issued by the Ordnungsamt who work for the city / municipality.

These guys are essentially a second-tier municipal police force who can hand out fines and deal with minor disturbances but lack the power to make arrests.

The municipal road traffic department (Strassenverkehrsamt) are in turn responsible for collecting the revenue.

What should you expect?

Well, it really depends what the offence is.

Minor German parking fines, such as parking in a residents only parking zone without a permit, or parking on the street in a permitted parking zone without a ticket (or an expired ticket) are usually considered minor offences. These will in most cases cost you less than the price of a meal out.

If you have impeded traffic or pedestrians the fine could be more costly, depending on the situation.

Some more serious (and expensive) examples include blocking access to a parking or unloading space, obstructing a bus or cycle lane, or completely blocking a pavement.

All of these, depending on the circumstances, could result in heavier fines and, in some cases, your car being towed.

If your car does get towed, then expect to pay the release fee as well as the fine. Both of them together will often be upwards of €250.

Parking in a private parking spot on somebody else’s property (residential or commercial) can also lead to clamping or a hefty fine if a private contractor is called out to remove or clamp your car.

 

What should you expect?

 

Well, it really depends what the offence is.

Minor German parking fines, such as parking in a residents only parking zone without a permit, or parking on the street in a permitted parking zone without a ticket (or an expired ticket) are usually considered minor offences. These will in most cases cost you less than the price of a meal out.

If you have impeded traffic or pedestrians the fine could be more costly, depending on the situation.

Some more serious (and expensive) examples include blocking access to a parking or unloading space, obstructing a bus or cycle lane, or completely blocking a pavement.

All of these, depending on the circumstances, could result in heavier fines and, in some cases, your car being towed.

If your car does get towed, then expect to pay the release fee as well as the fine. Both of them together will often be upwards of €250. 

Parking in a private parking spot on somebody else’s property (residential or commercial) can also lead to clamping or a hefty fine if a private contractor is called out to remove or clamp your car.

So you’ve received a fine for a minor parking offence?

 

The simple answer to “what next?” is to just pay up. Fighting it is more effort than it’s worth most of the time.

It might sound harsh but it’s not the Ordungsamt officer’s fault that you don’t know the applicable law. They’re just doing their job.

The first correspondence you receive upon incurring a parking fine is usually a warning letter. For a minor offence, this is normally anything between €10 and €30.

Make sure you pay it within a few weeks. You’re usually given two weeks to pay, but in reality, if you pay within the few weeks then it’s very unlikely that you will have any further proceedings or increased fines levied against you.

Minor German parking fines are considered civil offences and do not count as points on your licence or any other type of permanent record. They are also an important and vital source of revenue for municipalities which issue them!

If you’re rich enough (or stupid enough), you could park illegally every day in a non-dangerous situation and just pay the fines.

A brief summary of all of parking and unauthorised stopping fines can be found in the table below.

How to contest a parking fine

 

If you believe that you have been unjustly handed a fine, it is possible to contest this without any penalty or disadvantage other than your time and effort spent doing so. Unlike in some countries, where contesting a parking fine is like playing poker because you lose your early payment discount if your complaint is rejected, fortunately the German system doesn’t work like this.

You need to write to the issuing authority (in German), providing justification why you believe the fine is wrong.

After considering your dispute, if they still uphold the fine then you will receive a sternly written letter referring to the laws which uphold the offence, and usually demand payment within 14 days.

Failure to pay up at this point will then result in the fine increasing significantly. Ultimately, if you still protest your innocence, you can advise them of your intention to go to a small claims court to defend your position.

I successfully disputed a parking fine a few years ago when I received a notice for not parking in an official space on a car park at a ski resort. The markings on that day were not visible due to snow cover, so I wrote to them rejecting the fine on these grounds and I didn’t receive any further notices to pay up.

Think very carefully, however, before considering hiring a lawyer to dispute a relatively small fine. The costs can easily amount to several hundred Euro. More trouble than it’s worth unless you have done your homework and are more or less certain you will win.

More detailed info (in German) can be found here.

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Speeding

 

The bad news here is that the German police are sneaky when it comes to speeding fines. Fixed cameras are often placed in areas where it is difficult to spot them and also in most cases come with no warning that there is a fixed speed entrapment device.

Whereas in the UK, France, Spain and Belgium, there are in most cases signs warning you when you are approaching fixed speed cameras, in Germany these are very rare.

Unmarked cars with mobile speed cameras are also frequently used, especially in residential areas of towns and cities. These have been my particular nemesis over the years!

On the plus side, speeding fines in Germany are low compared to most neighbouring countries and you only receive points on your licence for being considerably over the speed limit. Fines in residential areas are higher and the points thresholds are lower.

Getting points in Germany is often referred to as “Punkte in Flensburg”, referring to the city where the administrative authority is based which deals with driving licence endorsements.

Speeding fines can be broken down into 3 main categories:

 

1. Minor offences

You will receive a letter shortly after being photographed by a speed camera. These are very similar to parking fines, insofar as prompt payment upon receiving the initial notification is seen as an acceptance of the fine, and a formal caution is the only action taken against you. Typically you have 14 days to pay.

 

2. Moderate offences with endorsement points

More serious speeding offences will result in you having points applied to your licence (assuming you hold a German drivers’ licence – the German authorities at the time of writing cannot put endorsement points on foreign licences).

 

3. Driving bans

Finally, the most serious speeding offences can result in a driving ban, depending on the severity of the offence. In these instances, you will have to surrender your driving licence at a local police station for the duration of the ban. You will also receive points and may be required to attend a speed awareness course.

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For those of you with even a minimal knowledge of German, these Apps are also handy for calculating what your fine or points endorsement will be if you have that sinking feeling of seeing a camera flash and wondering how hard it’s going to hit you.

Bussgeldrechner for iOS

Bussgeldrechner for Android 

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