The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, this week ruled unconstitutional several articles of Costa Rica’s Traffic Law that obligate motorists to register an email address in order to receive notifications of fines and other information from the Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI).
The agency uses email to inform motorists about expired driver’s licenses, license point penalties, traffic fines, appeal statuses for tickets, and other information, COSEVI’s Legal Department Director Carlos Rivas Fernández said.
“The main objective of registering an email address was to have an expedited way to keep drivers informed about reports or warnings concerning the Traffic Law. Now we’ll have to use traditional ways to do it,” Rivas said.
COSEVI is still waiting for the court’s full ruling in order to evaluate whether they can keep using some 100,000 emails addresses currently registered.
As a first step, COSEVI already has ordered the allocation of funds from their budget to place publications in newspapers. In coming days they will publish a list of all license plates of vehicles that were fined after the Sala IV’s resolution.
The lists first will be published in the official government newspaper La Gaceta. According to Costa Rican law, that is considered “official notification.” Drivers then will have 10 days after the publication to file an appeal. “The agency then may proceed with all legal steps for collection,” Rivas said.
Sala IV’s ruling resolved a legal complaint filed by the Ombudsman’s Office that challenged the constitutionality of the term “mandatory” contained in various sections of the country’s Traffic Law, approved in 2012.
Several citizens had complained to the Ombudsman’s Office arguing that it is unfair to force motorists to disclose their email addresses. They also argued that not everyone has Internet access, Rivas said.
“We will have problems notifying drivers who were fined while driving a vehicle registered under another person’s name,” Rivas noted. “In addition to the publication of messages in La Gaceta or other national newspapers, we’ll have to personally find these drivers.”
Unpaid fines will appear as part of vehicle owners’ yearly fee for mandatory auto insurance, known as the marchamo.
To date, the total amount of fines reported to the National Insurance Institute for collection along with the marchamo is 168,100. That corresponds to ₡10.2 billion ($18.8 million), Rivas said.
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