Posted on by Peter Rettig

Speaking German? Yes – but a $660,000 Fine for Driving Without a License?

Marco Reus tweet Marco Reus, a 25-year-old German soccer player, discovered that speaking German was not enough, as his luck ran out during a routine police stop.

He could not produce a driver's license. What must have astonished the officer the most was not that Reus could not not produce a valid license: But that he never had one!

Daily Rate Multiples

This story might not have made the German newspapers, (e.g. Frankfurter Allgemeine and Der Spiegel) if not for the really surprising fine: $660,000.

I discovered something I did not know and what probably had not existed when I lived in Germany: Fines for offenses such as Reus committed, are calculated on a “daily rate”, based on his net monthly income and how often the offenses occurred.

Although Reus reportedly had been driving for 7 years without a permit, the DA only listed 6 driving events between 2011 and 2014 as offenses. And Reus apparently even found a somewhat lenient judge who “only” applied a multiple of 90 “daily rates”. His monthly net income of $220,000, divided by thirty days then resulted in the total fine amount.

Driving offenses

Driving without a valid driving license is a criminal offense in Germany and can result in a fine or imprisonment for up to one year. The car of the person can also be confiscated. According to the above cited article, there were 111,000 cases of driving without a valid license in German in 2013.

Germany has a point system for driving infractions and Reus had been caught several times in radar traps. However, in Germany, these traps are often silent and you are not stopped, so he just paid the fines per mail.

And because he never accumulated more than 4 points, the system never tried to enter them on his non-existing driving license record. You can also own a car, without having a driving license.

The Good News

In spite of the horrendous fine, Reus can look at the positive side: He did not lose his Aston Martin and will be able to drive it again after he passes his driving test.

Furthermore, by limiting the daily rate multiple to 90, his fine will not be entered as a criminal record. And, maybe he will now also be able to continue to drive legally for his sponsor, General Motor/Opel as seen on this May 2014 tweet above.

So, travelers remember: Learning German and speaking it in Germany is great. But make also sure you have a valid drivers license with you, when you are driving there!

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