Parking tickets: can you get your money back?

The Constitutional Court has ruled that part of a federal law that transferred the authority to write out parking tickets to the municipal level, goes against the Belgian constitutional system. This could mean that countless parking tickets, issued by municipalities between 2003 and 2010, are not valid. People could even ask their money back, some experts say, although not all agree on this.

The case starts a couple of years ago. A man gets a parking ticket in the municipality of Torhout (West Flanders), but takes the matter to a local police court. He argues that the municipality does not have the authority to issue parking tickets, as this does not have a legal ground.

The local magistrate decides to pass the matter on to the Constitutional Court, which has now decided that part of a federal law going back to 2003, goes against the constitutional system. In 2003, lawmakers decided to take the matter of parking offences away from criminal law, which meant that municipalities were given the authority to issue parking fines. However, federal lawmakers didn't have the authority to make that decision. It's regional lawmakers who have to decide about this. In 2010, the Flemish Region set things straight, but there is a problem for fines issued between 2003 and 2010.

Money back or not?

Experts don't agree about the exact consequences of the latest ruling by the Constitutional Court. Michel Maus, a financial law professor, argues that this means that all parking fines concerned are illegal. Those who have received a penalty, can ask their money back, he claims.

However, others have a different meaning. Frank Meerschaut of the Constitutional Court press service claims that the ruling does not automatically imply that all parking fines issued between 2003 and 2010 are illegal.