San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Descent into Hell: Getting Back Confiscated Plates

If your car plates are removed by the police for not having a valid marchamo (vehicle circulation permit) – because your car did not pass the Riteve technical inspection – these are the steps you must follow to retrieve the plates. Always have with you all the original car documents, plus the new ones you will get along the way, plus half a dozen copies of your cédula (identification).

1. Immediately go to a Banco Nacional branch and pay the ticket (parte) you received when the plates were removed (¢12,000/$24). This gives you the right to continue driving the car for 24 hours.

2. You cannot recover the plates unless the car has passed inspection. Make an appointment with Riteve by calling 800-788-0000. You cannot have the car inspected without an appointment; this is the catch-22 part of the law. On the day of the appointment, which will most assuredly not be within the 24 hours you are allowed to drive the car without plates, you must drive the car without plates. How to do this? Pray. If you are stopped for driving without plates, show the police the paid ticket given to you when the plates were removed. Pray some more. Have with you the original marchamo from the previous year and the car’s “certificado de propiedad” (proof of ownership).

3. After passing inspection, you will get a document stating that the car has passed but that it does not have plates. They will not give you the decal until you have the plates back. Go to the Riteve office (right there) and show them this document. They will enter it in their system so that you can pay the marchamo 24 hours later. Go home and leave the car there until you retrieve the plates, Riteve decal and marchamo decal.

4. The next day, go to a National Insurance Institute (INS) agency (in another car or a taxi or bus) with all the papers from Riteve and the original certificado de propiedad, marchamo and a copy of your cédula. Go to the information desk and say that it is about a marchamo. They will give you a paper and a number. When your number is called, show all the documents and explain that the plates were removed, that the car has passed Riteve and that you want to pay the current marchamo. They will consult their system and will give you an order to pay at the cashier. After you pay the marchamo, you will get a document stating that you have paid it, but you will not get the corresponding decal until you show the Riteve decal.

5. Then (always in another car), go to the Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI, part of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, MOPT) in the northwestern San José district of La Uruca with all the documents and another copy of your cédula. Take a number; when they call it, ask for a certificate stating that you have no pending obligations, neither under your driver’s license nor your car (two certificates).

6. Pay ¢700 ($1.40) for each certificate at window number seven.With those pay slips, go to window number nine, show the slips and they will give you the certificates.

7. Then go to the property section of the National Registry, in the southeastern district of Zapote, not inside but outside, where it says “PADI.”Go to information and ask for a certificado de propiedad for your car. They will give you a new document, on which you check where it says “vehículo.”

8. Take this document inside the main registry. If you are a senior (over 65), you can go to window five or 30. When your turn comes, turn in the document of your car. Then they will give you the new certificate.

9. Once you have all these papers (from COSEVI and the registry), go to the juzgado de tránsito (transit court) nearest to where your plates were removed – remember, they close between noon and 1 p.m. – and take a number. When it is your turn, show the COSEVI and registry certificates, your cédula and a copy of it. They will then give you a document authorizing you to retrieve your license plates.

10.With that document, go to where they removed your plates (or wherever the juzgado tells you to go) and get hold of a transit policeman so that your plates can be returned to you.

11. Once you physically have your plates, return (always in another car) to Riteve, go inside and show them the plates and the document Riteve gave you when the car passed  inspection. They will give you an “orden de trabajo” (work order). Take it to the head of any line and hand it to the person in charge. They will enter the info into the system and then give you a new document explaining you have no “faltas graves” (serious infractions), along with the blessed decal.Now you must wait 24 hours before going back to the INS agency to get your marchamo; the system takes that long.

12. The next day, return to the INS agency you went to earlier. At the information desk,  say that it is about a marchamo, and they willgive you a paper and a number. When your number is called, show the new Riteve document, the Riteve decal and the agency document that says that you have already paid the marchamo. Finally, they will give you the new marchamo decal.

All these steps must be done personally. If you want someone else to do them for you, that person must have legal authorization (poder legal) from a lawyer (which will cost about ¢41,000/$82) stating that the person can act on your behalf. They must have all the original documents (parte, certificado de propiedad, marchamo of the past year, copies of your cédula, etc.).

Expect this person to take at least five working days to go through the process and expect to have to pay a hefty fee for the service.


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