The Estonian government on Thursday approved a bill which will link fines for more serious traffic violations to the income of the offender as well as extend the deadline for paying them, among other changes.
The largest amendments of the bill involve linking the fine unit to the offender's income for more serious traffic violations. Thus far, a fine system based on fixed amounts has been in force, which means that people who have committed offenses under similar circumstances are punished with fines of equal size. According to the bill's letter of explanation, this impacts people with varying income levels differently, and thus penalty sensitivity differs based on this factor.
The plan also involves reducing by one third the fine applied in expedited procedure. The prerequisite for an expedited procedure is that the person themselves agrees and gives up the opportunity to file a reply. According to the bill's letter of explanation, the state in cases like these can be accommodating and reduce the fine of expedited procedure when applying a punishment.
The bill also foresees the opportunity to punish traffic violators with the conditional suspension of the right to drive. According to existing law, a person who commits a traffic misdemeanor can be punished with the suspension of the right to drive, but this punishment cannot be applied conditionally. The bill stipulates the possibility of conditionally freeing the offender from driving disqualification applied as a primary or additional punishment.
In the case of a conditional punishment, a one-year probationary period will also be set for the offender. If the person commits another, similar misdemeanor during this time, their earlier punishment will be enforced and the punishment issued for the new misdemeanor will be added to it.
The bill will also extend the deadline for paying a fine and facilitate its payment in parts. Currently, a fine must be paid within 15 days of the decision being made accessible if the decision is not challenged. The deadline for challenging a decision is also 15 days. Generally, people in Estonia are paid on a monthly basis, due to which it may not fall within the time frame of the payment deadline, making payment of the fine difficult or impossible. This may create the need to enforce the fine, however, in which case the offender must also pay for the expenses of launching the execution proceeding. The bill stipulates the extension of the fine payment deadline from the current 15 to 45 days.
The bill is to enter into force on Feb. 1, 2019.
Editor: Aili Vahtla