Latvia puts too much work into sending out penalties: LTV's De Facto

Although speed cameras working on roads in Latvia have been verified as accurate, both the Road Traffic Safety Directorate (CSDD) and the State Police are involved in the preparation of violation penalty protocols. Efforts are being made to ensure as little human involvement as possible, Latvian Television's De Facto reported on February 25.

With stationary speed cameras alone, 233,656 speed violations were recorded last year. Although the cameras are in the hands of the CSDD, the decision on each punishment is prepared by the State Police. Penalties of nearly 8.9 million euros were issued last year for violations recorded by stationary speed cameras. If in the past traffic offenders were able to pay the penalty within a year, then since the new Administrative Liability Law has been in force, the penalty must be paid within one month.

90% of all administrative penalties imposed concern road traffic offenses. To prepare and process decisions, as well as to transfer unpaid penalties for enforcement promptly, the State Police has already involved 23 additional people to do this work in 2022.

Mārīte Ziemele, the head of the State Police's Office of Administrative Investigation Management, explained: "We do not have any employee or official in the State Police who is responsible solely for the recovery of this sentence. We have a separate unit that processes that information that is received, makes decisions, and controls enforcement accordingly. And also transferred for recovery then. [..] If the volume is too big, people are redirected a little bit to fit in with the deadline."

After changing the deadlines set in the law, the amount of penalties voluntarily paid has not significantly improved, and it is around 75%. Just more work for the police, because the non-payer has to be sent a warning, then prepare the case for handing over to the bailiff.

Authorities also have more work because penalty notices of more than €70 should also be sent abroad if the offender is from a European Union (EU) country. 735 rulings were sent to other EU Member States in 2021, 1,579 in 2022, and 2,629 in 2023.

Of the 27 institutions, apart from the municipalities entitled to impose penalties, 10 have said the new arrangements require more time and resources.

"I think it's about how the institution is able to reorganize its resources and how they can ensure that its function is performed. For example, the Environmental Service told us that they do not send these imposed penalties abroad at all because they do not have the means to provide translation costs. Situations in the institutions are very different,” said Kristine Jaunzeme, Member of the State Audit Board. For example, the Military Police did not know at all that fines could be sent abroad.

A total of around half a million administrative fines are imposed annually, around EUR 36 million in total. A third end up with bailiffs. 

State Audit Office has proposed to centralize the transfer of unpaid penalties for recovery or leave them in the hands of one institution but it is unclear which institution would do it. The State Revenue Service (VID) has declined. 

Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis (New Unity) believes the police are overwhelmed with functions that could be automated or performed by others. He urges that, for example, a statement from the CSDD could be sent to the offender without police involvement.

"[Currently] the CSDD system in question generates this offense, then [..] the police connect to that system. They verify each in that system and send them back to the CSDD and the CSDD then sends them to [the offender]. I have a question why, for what reason,” Kozlovskis said.

The Ministry of Justice is preparing amendments to improve the Administrative Liability Law, including by getting as few people involved as possible in the application of penalties, but even those information technology (IT) solutions already provided for in the Law have not been implemented. There is no link between the support system for administrative infringement proceedings and the Executive Files Register, which would allow for the efficient exchange of data.

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