I traveled to Italy to study abroad 2 years ago and received a bus fine in the middle of my trip. I believe it was ATAF, the local city bus. I was confused on how to pay and got on expecting to pay there.

Once I realized there was nowhere to pay we were already off. The next stop a ticket agent came on to check out tickets and took me off the bus. They handed me a fine and told me to pay by a certain date. Upset of course, I tore it up and threw it away. I left Italy not thinking much of it but now I want to go back and I am unsure what would happen if I did. Would they detain me? Would I go to jail? Would they charge me 1,000 euros to enter and cover my fine? Just looking for answers, I am having a hard time finding much about this.

  • 3
    did they take your ID, out of interest?
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 23:00
  • @MarkMayo my educated guess is that by take you didn't mean confiscate the paper ID, but rather demand the offender to show the ID to take note of the offender's identity Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 13:54
  • To the OP: it is worth disclosing your nationality, to tell whether you are EU or non-EU/non-Schengen. EU countries cooperate to abroad credit collection up to a certain point, but if you are a US citizen it's very unlikely that credit collectors will pursue you in your home country. And if you are a Schengen national, there is no such concept of detained at the border unless you are a fugitive killer Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 13:57
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    "Upset of course, I tore it up and threw it away."? why would you do that? do people not pay their fines where you're from?
    – njzk2
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 12:51

4 Answers 4


Normally when you get fined for fare evasion the fine is an administrative one. So they will send you a bill to your home address, and if you do not pay, a reminder.

If you do not do that they may, or may not, decide to take this to court. Some countries take this more seriously than others. (In Switzerland for example they will not just drop this). If you do not appear on your day in court then they will make in entry in the Schengen Information System, and you will be in trouble the next time you enter Europe (not just Italy).

Being detained at the border for an outstanding fine does actually happen. It is what the Schengen Information System is there for.

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    The part about SIS is incorrect. At this link you can find that "SIS only contains alerts on persons... under one of the following alert categories". Traffic enforcement does not fall into this. Also, it is not expected to issue a European arrest warrant for a few euros violation. Which is still a violation. Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 14:01
  • However, I can't find an exact source but I recall, to my best judgement, that indeed countries like Switzerland will enforce traffic violation until forever, but more likely you would have to be stopped at a random check by police. Especially for vehicle-related violations (speeding the most dreadful violation in Swiss culture) I recall that Swiss authorities will likely use ANPR cameras at the border to prevent a vehicle from leaving the Swiss territory, and confiscate it until the offender pays the fine. I don't recall the source for this. Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 14:04
  • We are not talking traffic violation here. The fine for Fare evasion in Switzerland is 100,- CHF. And if you do not pay it does go to court, and you become a "person related to a criminal investigation"... Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 9:34

All the previous answers seem legitimate, except the question itself is rather curious to me: however I will still attempt to clarify your doubts.

No jail, no 1000 euros, no court, no SIS, no ECHR (which was made to protect those who owe tens of thousands, not for a 30 euro bus fine), no prison. If you really can't find peace, then give a call to ATAF instead of asking here.

  • 2
    Yes, the simplest answer is that the OP writes a letter to ATAF in Florence and ask how to pay the fine (however belatedly). Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 23:39
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    If people are very worried, they could send an SIS data subject request and check if they are on the list. The chance is very very slim, although not out of range of possibilities. Personally I wouldn't worry about it too much and bother with it.
    – xngtng
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 11:46

The European Convention on Human Rights in 1950 banned debtors prisons. The border guard is not dealing with traffic fines. Chasing a minor fine like this internationally is simply not worth attorney's fees. You are good to go.

  • 4
    Debtors prison has nothing to with this. If you do not pay a fine you can still go to prison. Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 6:20
  • @KristvanBesien that really requires some source.
    – user4188
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 5:47
  • "No one shall be deprived of his liberty merely on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation." In many countries, fare evasion is an administrative or civil offence, in addition to breach of contract; however, each country or operator has their own way of determining which cases to send to the public prosecutors and which ones to proceed via private civil means.
    – xngtng
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 11:43
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    @chx Source: Ersatzfreiheitsstrafen: A substitute custodial sentence [Ersatzfreiheitsstrafe] is a custodial sentence that is carried out if a fine imposed by the court (in Austria also by an administrative authority) is not paid. If multiple fare evasion fines are not paid voluntary, the court can order it. If it is then not paid, the amount divided by the average daily income would determine the amount of days that the court can order to be served. Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 12:12
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    @chx Source: 2021-12-11: Berlin setzt Ersatzfreiheitsstrafen wegen Corona aus | rbb24: It is about offenses such as fare dodging or minor shop thefts. Most recently, 385 people were imprisoned on a replacement sentence. Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 12:26

Unless you gave staff your ID/passport AND real residential address, nothing will happen and anyone telling you otherwise either has no clue of how the system works, or they're lying to you because they morally think you ought to pay.

  • 4
    Downvoted because you are advocating illegal behavior.
    – Peter M
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 18:26
  • @PeterM I'm answering OP's question: "What will happen when I go back?". My first paragraph is to show that I have experience to back up my statement.
    – Crazydre
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 19:05
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    You said that you "do this all the time". Not that you did this once by accident. So you are promoting this action.
    – Peter M
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 21:39
  • 1
    @PeterM I neither encourage nor discourage it - to each their own IMHO. And surely having extensive experience makes my input more reliable than if I had only done it once?
    – Crazydre
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 18:18

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