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Uber Users In Costa Rica Are Exempt From Sanctions For Using The Illegal Transport

A Transito official eyeing traffic. The government has been under pressure by the formal taxi drivers to stop Uber in Costa Rica. Photo Rafael Murillo, La Nacion

As the Policia de Transito (Traffic Police) crack down on Uber drivers, users (passengers) can rest assured as they are not exposed to any type of sanction for using the illegally deemed private transport service.

Carlos Rivas, legal counsel to the Consejo de Seguridad Vial (Cosevi) – Road Safety Council – explains passengers are not obliged respond to questions of traffic officials in case the vehicle is stopped.

The situation, however, does not prevent the officers from requiring documentation of the driver.

If the traffic official deems it necessary, they can ask a question of the passengers. However, the passenger need not reply or provide any information.

“If the passenger does not answer, that is it, the officer can note it in the observations to the ticket issued to the driver,” Rivas said.

The lawyer explained, the driver and not the passenger(s) is the target of the traffic official.

In addition, the driver and passengers cannot be asked to get out vehicle.

“There should be no reason to ask the driver (or passengers) to get out of the vehicle unless he (the official) thinks there is just cause of a crime,” said Rivas.

According to Rivas, the driver must comply with the instructions of the official, otherwise, he/she could incur a fine of ¢51,000 colones for disobeying authority.

The ‘disobey’ fine applies to any driver of any vehicle who does comply with a lawful request by a traffic official. That change came into force on July 17 with the reforms to the Ley de Transito (Traffic Act).

The fine (issued to the driver) for the illegal transport is ¢104,600 colones. The traffic official may also confiscate the license plates, but cannot seize the vehicle.

The above fines are based on an infraction under the Ley de Transito.

However, the official choose a more complex and costly process of issuing the sanction under the Ley de la Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos (Aresep).

If the Aresep law is applied, the fine is between 5 and 20 base salaries (currently between ¢2 million and ¢8 million colones), but for this, the entire administrative process must be completed before the fine has to be paid and only if confirmed after the entire process is completed; a process where the vehicle must be seized, hearings, search for evidence, endorsement by the regualtor general, and a collection action for the fine. A cumberson process that can last from months to years.

It’s fair to assume the first, the Transito Law, will probably the one most chosen by the traffic official against an Uber driver.