San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Traffic Law

Legislative Assembly approves new traffic fines

The Legislative Assembly approved a bill to amend Costa Rica’s Traffic Law, mostly to include new fines, in a second and final round of debate yesterday.

One of the most important changes approved Tuesday evening is a ₡51,316 ($89) fine for parking offenses that Traffic Police officers will issue even if the driver is not present. That fine had been challenged before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, forcing Traffic Police officers to wait for the driver to return before issuing a ticket.

The approved legislation states that officers can issue the ticket to the owner of the vehicle using the license plate number. The fine will be bundled along with the mandatory circulation permit, or marchamo, that motorists pay every year.

Other fines

New fines of ₡306,850 ($533) will apply for drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test, and for owners of vehicles causing noise above the allowed decibel (dB) limit. The law lists a series of maximum noise limits, including 90 dB for cars, 92 dB for small cargo vehicles and small buses, 94 dB for buses, 96 dB for heavy-duty vehicles, 94 dB for motorcycles up to 250 cc and 96 dB for motorcycles over 250 cc.

Vehicles whose emissions of polluting gases exceed the limits established in the technical vehicle inspection (Riteve) will also have to pay that same fine.

Motorists caught without a driver’s license; without the appropriate category of license; with a temporary permit, but not accompanied by a licensed driver; or exceeding the permitted number of passengers will pay a fine of ₡103,679 ($180). The same fine applies to drivers of cargo vehicles that obstruct the road’s visibility, or that spill part of their cargo on the road, endangering other vehicles.

Fines of ₡51,316 will apply for the more conventional offenses of as disrespecting a traffic signal or the orders from a Traffic Police officer. The same fine applies to taxi, bus or other public service drivers working outside their authorized areas or without a valid public transport permit.

Traffic Police officials will confiscate the license plates of vehicles circulating without the mandatory circulation permits or insurance, obstructing public roads, sidewalks, pedestrian and bicycle lanes, or parked in unauthorized zones.

The full list of new fines and offenses will take effect as soon as President Luis Guillermo Solís signs it into law and it is published in the official newspaper La Gaceta.

Contact L. Arias at

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More fines for laws that are not enforced. Why do they waste time on this stuff? The law last year for motorcycles requiring a muffler was enforced for about two weeks and now all the motorcycles are louder than ever. I can’t even drive around with my window down because they also don’t adhere to driving lanes, speed limits, stop signs or traffic lights. If the legislature thinks increasing fines will reduce violations, they live in a dream-world.
In addition, does this law mean that big trucks using “jake brakes” to slow down (ungodly loud!) are even going to be passing by a traffic cop, let alone ticketed and fined? What they need here in Costa Rica are more traffic cops, not higher fines. But I can imagine how hard it is find good cops. I was once signaled to the roadside by a traffic cop for a license plate number violation inside San Jose. I asked him if he could be a nice guy and let me go since I was coming from Cima Hospital, and he said he would but only if I bought him a drink. In other words, this corrupt cop was bought off. I’ve asked Ticos about these traffic laws and they all say it is only a problem if you get caught. In other words, the laws are simply not respected. I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

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