Driving in Spain: you may have an embargo. You may visit Spain for a couple of days or you may just have moved there to live a simpler, sunnier life. No matter the reason, you need a car to drive around and, let’s be honest, driving on the other side of the road and trying to understand the traffic signs in a different language at the same time is not a good combination. Multitasking does not really exist and it is not the best idea to try to master this quality while driving.
Radar. Spanish roads
Spanish roads may not be plagued with police cars, and getting speeding tickets from a police officer is not so common. The Traffic Authorities in Spain (Dirección General de Tráfico – DGT), prefer cameras and radars and they even warn you about it, just remember this sign:
But again, no one really explained all these things to you and you don’t even recall being photographed.
Fast forward to a year later, you receive a letter from the Tax Agency letting you know that they have issued an embargo over your assets in Spain (properties, cars, accounts). We will give you some basic information and tips to avoid this unpleasant surprise:
Driving licenses in Spain are issued with 12 points. Some traffic offenses do not entail points withdrawal, yet others do. Since it is quite common for someone different than the owner of the car to drive it at times, the Dirección General de Tráfico allows you to identify the actual driver at the moment of the offense to avoid an automatic, thus unfair withdrawal of points to the car owner. Yet, the notification of the traffic offense and the fine will always arrive at the address where the car was registered, which usually corresponds to the owner’s address.
But you don’t have a Spanish driving license, how come you get a ticket? It does not matter if your license is not Spanish and if the Administration is not able to withdraw points from it, what matters is that you pay the fine, so you will receive the ticket even if the address you provided was your UK address.
Notifications are made by regular mail by default, unless you register yourself at the Dirección Electrónica Vial, in which case you will receive notifications by email.
When Correos (the Spanish Official Post service) is not able to deliver the fine letters for whatever reason, then the fine is published online by the Administration in a public board available to all citizens. From that moment, you have 20 natural days (including Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) to either pay/claim (when the traffic offense does not require driver identification) or identify the driver (if it does require driver identification).
If you identify the driver, they will receive the letter and have the option to either pay/claim in another 20 days, with the 50% discount. By not identifying the driver in the first 20 days though, you would be committing an administrative infraction, different from the traffic offense, which entails a more expensive penalty. You then have another 20 days to either pay or claim.
Driving in Spain: you may have an embargo
If you just don’t have any idea that all this is going on, you will end up with an embargo from the Tax Agency, and it is such a shame because, actually, judicial precedent is on your side and fines for not identifying the driver are considered against the law. The administration will not tell you about it of course, but if you claim the fine in time the original speeding ticket will be issued and the clock will start again from 0. You will have the opportunity to pay the fine with a 50% discount.
Just imagine: a fine of €300, could become €900 for not identifying the driver instead of €150 if you pay in time when you first receive the ticket.
Hence the reason for you to follow these tips, specially if you are moving to or already living in Spain:
- Get a digital certificate at the Fábrica Nacional de la Moneda y Timbre
- With your digital certificate, register your car at the DGT
- Register yourself at the Dirección Electrónica Vial
- And most importantly, if you are living in Spain remember to swap your license for a Spanish one. If you are a resident in Spain prior to 31 December 2020, you have until June 31, otherwise you have 6 months since your arrival date or since you got your residence permit
Hopefully, you are all set by now. If you are not sure though if you have received any tickets, you may check it at the following link with your car’s plate number:
By Malini Peñalva, Spanish Abogada at Del Canto Chambers Ibiza
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