8 years of illegal parking tickets?

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In 2003, local authorities were given the right to administer parking fines as part of the creation of Federal Belgium. The decision to transfer powers over non-criminal parking fines were against the Belgian constitutional system the countyr’s Constitutional Court has ruled.

This could mean that countless parking tickets, issued by municipalities between 2003 and 2010, are not valid. A debate is raging among experts about whether people could ask for their money back.

The case started a couple of years ago when a man received a parking ticket in the municipality of Torhout (West Flanders). He took the matter to a local police court arguing that the municipality did not have the authority to issue parking tickets, as this does not have a legal basis.

The local magistrate decided 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 is regional lawmakers who have the power to decide about this. In 2010, the Flemish Region set things straight, but there is a problem for fines issued between 2003 and 2010.

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.