The following information was sent to many of you from Kevin Graham, representative in the Costa Maya for the US Consulate and clears up some confusion that exists regarding the laws. It has so much valuable information that I feel compelled to repeat it, despite the length of the report.
The following information was forwarded by Kevin Graham, representative in the Costa Maya for the US Consulate and clears up some confusion that exists regarding the laws. It is written by Samantha Mason who is the USCA Agent in Playa del Carmen.
She added this DIsclaimer : "I am not a professional or certified translator nor am I a lawyer or legal counsel. All the information contained here is true to the best of knowledge:
Dear fellow American Citizens,
". . . I had a meeting with the Chief of Police, the Director of the Transit Department, the Director of Public Safety and I invited The Director of Public Relations for Tourism in Solidaridad. The meeting was very productive. I would like to thank each and every one of you who sent me information about incidents with the Police in Playa del Carmen. The stories about both positive interactions and negative interactions were very helpful to demonstrate the core of the problem and its effects on the community. Please keep in mind that this entire discussion is related to Municipal Police (Green and White Vehicles) except where explicitly stated.
Let me start, by giving you a general overview of the meeting and then I will go into more detail about some issues that were addressed specifically and should be addressed with each of you. First, we were able to identify one particularly corrupt official, who will be severely reprimanded and possibly dismissed. Second, we discussed the growing problem of American Citizens living in the area with importation stickers who have been targeted continually and extorted often. We also discussed the common complaint of being wrongly accused of excessive velocity at the radar operation zones. We discussed the proper mechanism for bringing forward a complaint of either mistreatment or extortion from local officials. And lastly, we discussed a way to positively open the door between yourselves and the local Police.
Now I will discuss each one of these points in more detail. I realize that one of you may post this information on one of the local message boards and for that reason I want to preface this discussion with a bit more background. The information contained within this letter is not my opinion nor the opinion or beliefs of others. All of the rules / laws stated have been corroborated with the Agency that is responsible for the law. Some concessions have been made by the local authorities in order to service the foreign community that lives here, but the law is the law. If I have made a false statement I will be happy to correct it. Please do not contradict what I have stated without absolute certainty that what I have written is not true, as that just confuses everybody. Oh and by all means if someone can find a federal law that gives us all an easy way out of the car impound issue, please, please, please inform me. Okay, so here we go.
Temporary Importation Stickers
These temporary importation stickers are governed by Federal Customs Law Article 106. The law can be found in Spanish on the internet. Here is the part that refers to Foreign plated vehicles in Spanish first and in English next.
ARTICULO 106. SE ENTIENDE POR REGIMEN DE IMPORTACION TEMPORAL, LA ENTRADA AL PAIS DE MERCANCIAS PARA PERMANECER EN EL POR TIEMPO LIMITADO Y CON UNA FINALIDAD ESPECIFICA, SIEMPRE QUE RETORNEN AL EXTRANJERO EN EL MISMO ESTADO, POR LOS SIGUIENTES PLAZOS:
Article 106: Temporary importation pertains to the entry into the country merchandise which will remain for a limited time and with a specific purpose, provided that it will be returned to the exterior of the country unaltered; for the following periods:
IV. POR EL PLAZO QUE DURE SU CALIDAD MIGRATORIA, INCLUYENDO SUS PRORROGAS, EN LOS SIGUIENTES CASOS:
Section IV: For the period of time allowed by a foreigners migratory status, including any extensions, in the following cases;
A) LAS DE VEHICULOS PROPIEDAD DE EXTRANJEROS QUE SE INTERNEN AL PAIS CON CALIDAD DE INMIGRANTES RENTISTAS O DE NO INMIGRANTES, EXCEPTO TRATANDOSE DE REFUGIADOS Y ASILADOS POLITICOS, SIEMPRE QUE SE TRATE DE UN SOLO VEHICULO.
B) LOS VEHICULOS QUE IMPORTEN TURISTAS Y VISITANTES LOCALES, INCLUSO QUE NO SEAN DE SU PROPIEDAD Y SE TRATE DE UN SOLO VEHICULO.
A) The vehicle belonging to a foreign person that enters the country as renting immigrant (FM2) or non-immigrant (FM3), except in the case of a person seeking refuge or political asylum and it is understood that each foreign person is only allowed temporary importation of one vehicle at any given time.
B) The vehicle imported by a tourist (FMT) and visitors, including if it is not their property and again it is understood that each person can only temporarily import one vehicle at any given time.
C) LOS VEHICULOS PODRAN SER CONDUCIDOS EN TERRITORIO NACIONAL POR EL IMPORTADOR, SU CONYUGE, SUS ASCENDIENTES, DESCENDIENTES O HERMANOS, AUN CUANDO ESTOS NO SEAN EXTRANJEROS, POR UN EXTRANJERO QUE TENGA ALGUNA DE LAS CALIDADES MIGRATORIAS A QUE SE REFIERE ESTE INCISO, O POR UN NACIONAL, SIEMPRE QUE EN ESTE ULTIMO CASO, VIAJE A BORDO DEL MISMO CUALQUIERA DE LAS PERSONAS AUTORIZADAS PARA CONDUCIR EL VEHICULO Y PODRAN EFECTUAR ENTRADAS Y SALIDAS MULTIPLES.
C) The vehicle can be driven in all of the national territory by the importer, his/her spouse, his/her ancestors, his/her descendants, his/her siblings, even if they are not foreigners; by another foreigner with one of the above mentioned migratory status; or by a Mexican national, but in the case of a Mexican national who has not otherwise been authorized by previous sections of this law, only when accompanied by one of the other persons who has been authorized to drive the vehicle by previous sections of this law. Any of the above authorized persons can affect multiple entries and exits into and out of the country.
LOS VEHICLUOS A QUE SE REFIERE ESTE INCISO, DEBERAN CUMPLIR CON LOS REQUISITOS QUE SENAL EL REGLAMENTO
D. Vehicles referred to in this section must meet the requirements of the regulations.
Okay, so that is the law, what is its meaning? Well it means that you can as a foreigner who is legally in this country and in possession of a valid FMT, FM3, or FM2 immigration document (not in process, not expired, not immigrated) can legally temporarily import one foreign plated vehicle into Mexico and that that vehicle can stay in the country and be driven in the entire country by you, your relatives, your spouse or another foreigner with a current FM3, FM2, FMT without you present in the vehicle. Your car can also be driven by a Mexican National under the circumstances that the Mexican is either related to you or accompanied by you, one of your relatives or another non-Mexican person.
The very last section of this rule states that the car must also meet all the requirements of the “Regulations” This is where it can get a little tricky because then it is referring to both federal regulations and more local regulations, like municipal and state regulations.
Local regulations, particularly Articles 75 and 76 of the “Reglamento de Transito de Solidaridad”, requires that in order for a car to circulate in Solidaridad (the county from South of Puerto Morelos until about Akumal) the driver should have the following documentation on board at all times and be prepared to show it to any officer that solicits.
- Valid Plates (Front and Back)
- Identifying window sticker
- Valid Substituting document or Provisional permission
- Mechanical Review of the car
- A copy of the Transit Rules of Solidaridad
And local regulations Article 51 and Article 52 require that the driver of the vehicle have in his possession a valid Driver’s License.
However, in discussions with the chief of police today, this is the requirement for foreigners in this county. I urge you to immediately check to see that the documentation that you carry in your vehicle meets these requirements.
- Valid Driver’s License
- Temporary Importation Card
- Temporary Importation Sticker on your windshield
- Two Valid License Plates (unless your car has plates from ALABAMA, ARIZONA,ARKANSAS, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, INDIANA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MICHIGAN, MISSISSIPPI, NEW MEXICO, NORTH CAROLINA, OKLAHOMA, PENNSYLVANIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TENNESSEE, or WEST VIRGINIA and in this case you will be allowed to have one plate in the rear.)
- If your temporary importation sticker and card is out of date then you must also have in the car a copy of your immigration document in the vehicle showing that your immigration status is current. (If your papers are being processed and your previous FM3 is out of date you nor anyone else should drive your vehicle)
- In cases where others will drive your vehicle, on top of what is mentioned above, they should have a valid driver’s license and the following
a. If they are foreigners, a valid FM3, FM2 or FMT
b. If they are Mexican and related to you, then proof of that relationship (Marriage Certificate, Birth Certificate
c. If they are Mexican and not related to you, they should not drive the vehicle unless they are accompanied by another authorized driver who has previously mentioned proof of immigration status or relationship available in the car.
*** On top of this I recommend that you also have the following:
1. A copy of your vehicle’s title, current registration or purchase receipt.
2. A copy of your current insurance policy.
Okay, so let’s talk about some specific cases:
Police Extortion / Paying Bribes (Tips or Mordidas)
Though reportedly a routine practice in Mexico, paying a bribe or a fine directly to a police officer is illegal in the state of Quintana Roo. Below is the current Article, pertaining to this piece of legislation in Quintana Roo and its unofficial translation in English. (Reglamento de Transito de Quintana Roo)
ARTÍCULO 259.- Los elementos de la Dirección de Tránsito que reciban el importe de las multas o a quienes se les compruebe haber recibido dinero de parte de un infractor serán suspendidos o cesados a juicio de la Dirección de Tránsito y el infractor será sancionado con el doble de la multa correspondiente.
ARTICLE 259. – The elements of the Transit Department who receive the amount of fines or who have been proven to have received monies from a transit offender will be suspended or relieved of duty at the discretion of the Director of Transit and the transit offender who pays monies directly to a transit officer will be sanctioned by paying double the originally intended fine.
When you are detained by a traffic officer for a routine traffic violation, he legally has two options and only two options under the law. The first is to give you a warning. There is no cost and you should not be charged any “tipo”, “propina”, or “mordita” for being let off with a warning. Again, this is would be illegal. The other option , of course, is to write you a ticket that you will pay at the police station. Under the law, he can hold your Driver’s License as a guarantee that you will pay your ticket. If you do not have a valid Driver’s License he can hold your temporary importation card as the guarantee.
I have heard the stories, read the posts and the emails and have heard from a number of you that you pay the bribe because that “it is the way it is in Mexico”. I am here to tell you that it is not the way in Mexico. It is illegal in Mexico the same as it is illegal in the United States. If you are paying the bribe you are doing things your way and not the Mexican way and you are breaking the law and so is the officer that is accepting the bribe. Also, I will say that you are feeding the beast and perpetrating a terrible cycle. I will give all of you the benefit of the doubt and agree that maybe you did not know better or you felt so scared that you felt that you didn’t have a choice. But now you are being educated to know that you have the choice to just take responsibility for maybe having made a moving violation and suck it up and pay the ticket or explain to the officer that you feel that you did not break the particular traffic law that he is accusing you of, but that you will have that discussion with his commanding officer. I have much more to say about this, but I will not as I said I have a discussion of my opinions in this letter. But, I encourage anyone who disagrees with me to come have a conversation with me about the effects of this type of behavior on any community and on our community in particular.
So let’s talk about what the law states about how the interaction between you and Officer Friendly should go. This information can be found in Articles 182- 184 of the Municipal Transit Rules.
1. The officer should clearly signal to the driver of the vehicle to stop the vehicle and park the vehicle where it will not obstruct traffic flow. Driver should do as instructed.
2. Officer should approach the vehicle and identify himself by name and badge number.
3. Officer should explain to the driver with brevity, courtesy and respect the infraction that was committed by the driver
4. Officer should ask for the driver’s license and registration of the vehicle. (In the case of foreign plated vehicles the valid temporary importation card or expired temporary importation sticker and valid immigration document.)
5. Officer should write corresponding ticket.
6. Both parties should avoid all discussion about the ticket.
7. The ticket is given to the driver and either the Driver’s License or temporary importation sticker is kept by the officer as a guarantee of payment of the fine. For five days, the ticket can be used in place of driver’s license / temporary importation sticker so that the driver can still operate the vehicle.
8. The item that was held as collateral will be returned to the driver of the vehicle when he pays his fine at Cashier of the police station in Playa del Carmen. Please note that this Cashier station is open 7 days a week/ 24 hours a day and most times can accept Credit Cards. Please also note that there are two ATM machines available at the police station.
9. According to Article 209 of the Municipal Transit Rules any accused transit rule offender can present personally at the Office of the Director of Transit to contest any infraction received or to report any illicit behavior or mistreatment by a police officer.
On this last issue, here are some details about how to make this a successful interaction. You must present your complaint in less than three days after the occurrence and it is even more helpful if you take immediate action. During the interaction with the Director, you should have available specific details about the negative occurrence, such as; date of incident, time of incident, location of incident, patrol car number and description, physical description of the officer who offended you, and a description of the events that transpired. If possible the name and badge number, but this is not necessary. You should call the Police Station and ask for an appointment. The phone number for the police station is 984-877-3340. Again, I am happy to assist in these cases, but I urge anyone who calls me to think about any responsibility that you may have had in what transpired. I am entirely too busy to assist talking you out of an infraction that you deserved or helping you if you proposed the paying of the bribe to the officer, but always available if it is a case that you were truly mistreated or a victim of pressured extortion. For tourist, who truly did not have time to confront a situation I can present your detailed complaint to the authorities on your behalf. You should send your complaint to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please note here, not having time does not mean you were too busy enjoying your vacation to worry about confronting this behavior.
10. If for whatever reason, you do not feel comfortable taking a complaint about illicit police behavior to the Police Management, you can submit a written complaint (in Spanish) to the Municipal Office of “Controlaria Municipal”.
Impounding of Vehicles
The impounding of vehicles can be affected by municipal, state or federal police. According to the Municipal Rules of Transit, Chapter XVII, Articles 201 – 208 impound of your vehicle can occur under the following circumstances:
1. When the driver does not have the necessary documentation on board the vehicle as prescribed by earlier sections of the rules of transit. (Again, Please get your documentation in order)
2. When the driver is evidently inebriated or under the influence of any drug, even if that drug is prescribed medication
3. When the vehicle is parked in a prohibited place and the owner/operator of the vehicle is not present to move his vehicle and receive his infraction
4. When the vehicle is obstructing traffic and the owner / operator of the vehicle is not present to move his vehicle and receive his infraction
Other important information about impounding of vehicles found in the Rules.
1. The impound of the vehicle will be ordered by the transit officer and performed by a tow truck of the Transit Department or of a tow company otherwise authorized by the Transit Department.
2. The expenses incurred as a result of the tow and impound of the vehicle are the responsibility of the supposed offender and the tariff is set by the Municipal Government. The payment for the tow and impound can only be paid to the Municipal Treasury even if the car was towed and is held by a private company.
3. The vehicle should be towed and deposited to authorized impound lot without delay.
4. The vehicle will only be released to its owner after its owner has shown proof of ownership, proof of proper necessary documentation to circulate the vehicle and proof of payment of any outstanding fines.
Municipal Law dictates that all vehicles (excluding motorcycles and bicycles) that circulate within the County must have two license plates affixed, one must be affixed in back and the other in front. In light of the information that 20 US States only permit 1 rear plate, the Chief of Police has agreed to make a concession for American plated vehicles from ALABAMA, ARIZONA,ARKANSAS, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, INDIANA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MICHIGAN, MISSISSIPPI, NEW MEXICO, NORTH CAROLINA, OKLAHOMA, PENNSYLVANIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TENNESSEE, or WEST VIRGINIA. Now, today, the Chief of Police gave the order to the Director of Transit to instruct his elements about this concession, but I am sure it might take some time to be implemented. Please keep me informed if you continued to be stopped for this reason, so that I can readdress the issue with the Chief. Again I will need the details of the interaction mentioned above. Please if you do get stopped for this reason that the Chief of Police has made a very nice concession for us on this issue. Do not act annoyed or irritated with the officer or do anything that my make this concession get revoked. Those of you who have split your two plates from other states between two vehicles, you should probably correct this ASAP.
Special Treatment of Tourist
Both State and Municipal Transit regulations have a special concession for tourist, those people who are in possession of an FMT – tourist visa. The law can be found in the Solidaridad Transit Regulations; Chapter XII, Article 146, which states that the municipal government has established a courtesy ticket that applies exclusively to tourist that inadvertently break the rules. The courtesy ticket has no cost to tourist. Its objective is to educate the driver of the committed violation and encourage the driver to comply with the local transit laws. The courtesy ticket may be applied up to two occasions for the same driver or vehicle and will not occur in cases where grave offenses have been made.
APOYO AL TURISTA
Artículo 146.- Se establece en el Municipio la boleta de infracción de cortesía que se aplicará exclusivamente a los turistas que infrinjan este ordenamiento. Esta Infracción de cortesía no implica costo alguno a losturistas, siendo su objetivo señalar la violación cometida y exhortar a conducir cumpliendo con las reglas de tránsito. La sanción de cortesía es aplicada hasta en dos ocasiones al mismo vehículo y/o conductor y no procede en los casos de actos y omisiones graves contrarios a lque se dispone en el presente Reglamento.
Relationship with Public Safety
The Chief of Police is very interested in opening the door between his offices and the community. I explained that I would like to have “Town Hall” meeting and invite himself or some of his officers to discuss some of the issues our community about which our community is concerned. He was very excited about this suggestion and it will happen, you have my word. Unfortunately, most likely it will not happen until the second half of October as I would like to wait for many of the half year residents to return. I would also like to wait a couple of months to how the meeting today has affected the situation.
Continuing Education about Transit Rules
As a person who is living and driving for a long period of time in Mexico, it is in your best interest to understand the laws that will affect you. I realize as well that many of you do not read Spanish well enough to read and fully understand the laws that are written Spanish and posted on the various government websites. I propose that the community work together to have the Transit Regulations translated by a qualified translator and then work together to have the actual law written in English readily available. I mentioned this today in the meeting and though the Chief of Police thought it a good idea, I am sure the sentiment was that this would not be a responsibility of the local government. I am eager to hear your ideas on this.
Please know that I went to the meeting today and have written this letter to all of you with the best intentions. I do realize that some of you may not like having the knowledge that you acquired after reading this information. Please realize that nothing I did today caused these laws to be legislated as the local Transit Law has been such since 2006 and the Customs law has been in place since 2004. Many of you might be realizing now that you have been unknowingly offending the local traffic laws especially where documentation is considered. I urge you to do all that you can to get your paperwork in order, as I am sure that for a little time, at least, the officials will be acting in accordance with the laws as they are written, which means your vehicle could be impounded. For those of you that have your papers in order, please make sure that copies of them are in your vehicle and breathe easy. Please do not let our communication on this topic stop. Let me know how you have been affected and the behavior of the police towards you in the upcoming weeks. And remember, if you are mistreated or extorted, inform me with specific information about the incident and we will go to the Chief of Police together immediately. I truly felt a purely positive response from the Chief of Police today and believe him to be sincere in his desire to clean up the police force. In order to do so, he will need cooperation and assistance. My last plea to all of you is the next time you are detained for a moving violation please use your best judgment like the person you respect most in this world is in your passenger’s seat. The most expensive ticket is less than $1500 pesos, surely your conscience and our community’s fiber is worth more than that.