Italy’s top court just ruled that bribing a police officer is legal

Italy’s top court has ruled that a drunk driver did absolutely nothing wrong when he tried to bribe a police officer.

Italy's top court just ruled that bribing a police officer is legal
The police officer in this picture is not taking a bribe, not even a small one Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The Court of Cassation acquitted the man of corruption – because the €100 he offered the official to avoid being convicted of drunk driving was too small. Bribes of €100 are not big enough to be deemed corruption, the court ruled.

The court also said that due to the man’s state of drunkenness, he was not of “sound mind” when he offered the police officer money to turn a blind eye, reported.

For a bribery attempt to be classified as corruption, Italian law states: “It is neccesary that the offer is made with approprate seriousness,” and also “that the attempt is able to psychologically unsettle the public official”.

In light of the man's inebriated state, and the small sum being offered, the court ruling stated that the case does not constitute corruption and that the “charge should be cancelled without delay”.

But even though he escaped a bribery conviction, the man has not avoided a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol, which in Italy carries a fine of between €500 and €6,200, a license ban of between six and 12 months, and six to 12 months in prison – depending on the driver’s level of intoxication.

This isn’t the only time Italy’s supreme court has made a bizarre ruling.

Last year it rejected an appeal from the iconic carmaker, Fiat, over its decision to fire a man who watched porn films during his lunch break.

The man had argued that his porn viewing was limited to merely “catching a glimpse” of a film during his lunch break. As there was no evidence of the habit seeping into his normal working hours, the Court of Cassation ruled he could not be fired.



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EXPLAINED: Do you need to switch your tyres for summer in Italy?

Italy's road rules require a switch from winter to summer tyres by Monday, May 15th - but who exactly does this rule apply to? Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Do you need to switch your tyres for summer in Italy?

Though we may not have seen much in the way of sunny weather and balmy temperatures lately, the warm season appears to be just around the corner. And for many motorists in Italy this means a requirement to change their tyres.

Unusually, Italian road rules have since 2014 included a ban on the use of winter tyres during the summer months – specifically from May 15th onwards, though the window for making the switch starts on April 15th. 

Breaking this rule can be expensive, potentially resulting in a fine of up to 1,731 euros plus the requirement to undergo a revisione (the Italian equivalent of a UK MOT test or a vehicle inspection in the US).

But the rules are a frequent source of confusion, as they don’t apply to everyone.

Here’s a detailed look at who is actually required to make the switch from winter to summer tyres in Italy, and how to find out whether or not the requirement applies to you.

Who do the rules apply to?

In typically Italian fashion, rules on summer tyres are fairly convoluted but they can be summarised as follows. 

The legal requirement to switch to summer tyres by May 15th only applies to vehicles whose winter tyres – these are generally marked with ‘M+S’ (‘mud plus snow’) or with a snowflake encircled by a three-peak mountain range – have a speed rating which is lower than the tyre speed rating indicated on their registration certificate (carta di circolazione).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How do you take your driving test in Italy?

Winter tyre

Not all motorists in Italy have to make the switch from winter to summer tyres. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP

This means that, if the winter tyres on your car have a speed rating which is higher than or equal to the speed rating shown in the car’s registration certificate, you won’t have to make the switch. 

Furthermore, the summer tyres requirement does not apply to vehicles fitted with all-season tyres (pneumatici quattro stagioni) – these are generally marked with ‘4S’ (standing for ‘4 Seasons’).

Where can I find the relevant speed ratings?

A tyre speed rating indicates the fastest speed a tyre can handle before it no longer performs as designed, and it is expressed as an alphabet letter from A (lowest) to Y (highest). 

All tyre speed ratings and their corresponding letters are available at the following link.

READ ALSO: How do you dispute a parking ticket in Italy?

The speed rating of a tyre can generally be found on its sidewall, right after the load rating (a two- or three-figure number expressing the maximum weight a tyre is able to carry). 

So, for instance, a tyre carrying the letter ‘N’ on its sidewall has a speed rating of 140 kilometres an hour (or 87 mph).

As for your car registration certificate, the tyre speed rating can usually be found below the ‘PNEUMATICI’ (tyres) heading in the bottom-left quadrant of the document.  

Once again, the rating will be expressed as a letter from A to Y and will figure right after the load rating, as shown by the picture below.

Car registration certificate in Italy

Photo by Sir Car Ferrara

Practical examples

If the winter tyres on your car carry a Q rating (160 km/h), but your registration certificate says that, in normal conditions (i.e. outside of the cold season), your tyres should have an S rating (180 km/h), you’ll be legally required to switch to summer tyres. 

If the winter tyres on your car carry a T rating (190 km/h) and your registration certificate says that, in normal conditions, your tyres should have an S rating (180 km/h), you won’t be required to switch to summer tyres.  

I’m not legally required to switch to summer tyres. Should I do it anyway?

Though you may not be legally required to switch to summer tyres, having summer tyres on during the warm (and hot) months is advisable. 

In fact, with temperatures above 7C, summer tyres allow for better grip and braking and less fuel consumption compared to their winter counterparts. 

READ ALSO: How to avoid car hire scams in Italy

In the words of Fabio Bertolotti, director of Italian tyre association Assogomma, motorists are always advised to use tyres suited to the season they’re in “not just to abide by the relevant laws but, above all, to have a vehicle capable of offering the best possible performances in any weather condition”.

How much does switching to summer tyres cost?

If you already own a set of summer tyres, you’ll only have to pay for fitting, with prices generally ranging from 30 to 70 euros

But, should you have to buy a new set, a mid-range set of summer tyres will set you back around 300 euros (that’s 70-75 euros per tyre).

Auto mechanic changing tyres

A new set of mid-range summer tyres will generally set you back around 300 euros. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP

What are the rules for motorcycles?

Motorcycles aren’t subject to winter tyres rules, meaning owners are not legally required to have winter tyres on during the cold months. 

But, if you fitted your motorcycle with winter tyres last year, then you’ll have to switch to summer ones unless the speed rating provision mentioned earlier for cars applies. 

Note that the Italian Highway Code gives regions and individual provinces the power to alter national rules based on differing features and climate in each area, meaning that, in some parts of the country, the summer tyre deadline may be different from the national one on May 15th. You can check this year’s dates for your own comune with your local Motorizzazione Civile office.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For more information, get in touch with your Motorizzazione Civile office or seek the advice of a professional.