Failing to obey traffic laws equals fines, penalties

by 86th Airlift Wing Legal Office

Whether you have just arrived in Germany or you have lived here for a while, there is nothing like driving on the Autobahn.

Although Germany is one of the few remaining countries without a general speed limit on some of parts of the Autobahn, it is also a country with many frequently changed specific speed limits as well as other strictly observed traffic rules often regulated by traffic cameras. If you happen to get a ticket, here’s some basic information to help out.

There are two types of tickets issued in Germany: a Verwarnung, or warning, and a Bußgeldbescheid, or penalty order.

Verwarnung’s are for violations carrying fines of less than €60 and may be collected on the spot for certain tickets. If paid on the spot, make sure to get a receipt. Other warning tickets may be put on the windshield (e.g., parking violations) or may be sent by mail. If sent by mail, the warning will usually come through your unit or to your private APO address. These warnings must be paid within one week unless properly protested. Unpaid warnings convert to penalty orders with an added administrative fee.

Bußgeldbescheid is issued if the initial violation carries a fine of €60 or greater or if a warning ticket is not paid. Additionally, there is a €25 administrative fee automatically added and, if applicable, fees for procedural costs. For Air Force members, civilians and their dependents in the KMC area, this means you must come to the Ramstein Law Center International Law Division for service of process.

Penalty orders from out of state may also be sent to you via mail. These are typically sent to your APO, street address or to your unit by another U.S. Forces legal office. Penalty orders may be protested within two weeks of the time you are served. If your protest is denied and your issue goes before a German court, you may face higher fines plus possible court costs if you are convicted. A payment must be made within four weeks of the time you are served if you choose not to protest.

If you receive a penalty order, you will have a chance to respond to the alleged traffic violation either at the scene or through an Anhörung, or a mailed questionnaire. The questionnaire is intended to provide the addressee a chance to respond to the allegation. It looks similar to a penalty order — the difference is that it contains no fine but only a description of the incident. The questionnaire will be addressed to the registered owner unless the German authority has already determined the owner was not the driver.

If you receive a notice requesting you to come to the Law Center to retrieve a ticket, do not ignore it. The legal office will follow up through your supervisor, first sergeant or commander if necessary.

Failure to pay your ticket may result in the German Court, ordering jail time to induce payment of an overdue fine.

Those who have questions about specific situations should contact the legal office at 480-5911 or visit the International Law Division during the following times: 8 a.m to 3:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays.