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How are traffic offences dealt with?

Minor traffic offences, such as speeding, are dealt with administratively. They are not considered criminal offences (Straftaten), but only misdemeanours (Ordnungswidrigkeiten). But serious traffic offences, especially offences where other road users are endangered or injured, do usually constitute criminal offences.

Minor traffic offences are investigated by the administrative authorities. During the proceedings you can present your views in writing. For very minor offences (e.g. parking offences), you will be cautioned and offered the chance to pay a cautionary penalty (Verwarnungsgeld) of up to €35. If you pay, that will be the end of the matter; if you do not, and the administrative authorities believe you are to blame, they can issue a fining order (Bußgeldbescheid) requiring you to pay a fine (Bußgeld). Such an order may also impose a driving ban. The amount of the fine and the length of the ban are set out in a catalogue of penalties .

You may enter an objection (Einspruch) to a fining order. The public prosecutor will refer the case to court. In principle there should then be a trial, on the lines described in factsheet 4. But if the court does not consider a full trial necessary, and you and the public prosecutor agree, it may decide the matter in a court order (Beschluss). You can challenge a judgment or order in such proceedings by bringing a complaint on a point of law (Rechtsbeschwerde) in the higher regional court (Oberlandsgericht). But this form of appeal is available only in certain circumstances, such as where you have been fined more than €250, or where the case would help to clarify the law.

Are citizens of other Member States prosecuted for such offences? If so, how?

Citizens of other Member States are also prosecuted for such offences. If you commit a driving offence, a cautionary penalty or a security payment may be required on the spot. Any such security payment will be offset against the fine determined at the end of the proceedings. If you are not stopped at the time of the offence, you may be prosecuted if your country shares vehicle identification data with Germany. Germany expects to join the EU-wide system for the enforcement of fines in autumn 2010. Fines imposed in Germany will then be enforceable in your home country.

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

Minor traffic offences are not recorded in the Federal Central Criminal Register, but in a separate Central Register of Traffic Offenders. This contains particulars of persons committing traffic offences in Germany, whether their licence is German or foreign. Offences are recorded if the fine imposed amounts to €40 or more. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, a certain number of penalty points is also recorded. German drivers lose their driving licence if they get 18 points or more, while foreign drivers lose the right to drive in Germany.

Further information

Traffic offences and the relevant procedures are governed by the Road Traffic Act, the Highway Code and the Misdemeanours Act.

Last update: 30/08/2019

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