Romania’s top court has ruled that fines handed out to Romanians who broke lockdown rules during the COVID-19 state of emergency weren’t legal.
In its Wednesday ruling, the Constitutional Court said the military ordinance that set out the penalties was imprecise and there was no clear criteria for the level of fines.
Romanians currently have to fill out a form explaining why they have left home which is allowed for a limited number of reasons, such as buying food, going to work, or taking exercise.
If they don’t carry a form when authorities stop them, or there is a problem with their explanation, police can fine them 2,000 to 20,000 lei. Fines initially ranged from 100 to 5,000 lei. People who don’t respect quarantine are also liable to be fined.
The penalties have been widely criticized in a country where the average monthly salary is 3,000 lei. Interior Minister Marcel Vela said Monday that inexperienced police officers were to blame for “abusively” handing out penalties during the lockdown.
Vela said about 300,000 people have been fined 600 million lei, the equivalent of about 120 million euros since a state of emergency was imposed on March 16.
The Constitutional Court said the fines could be canceled but only after they had been challenged in court.
Romania’s ombudsman Renate Weber who filed a legal objection to the fines said courts could find themselves dealing with “tens of thousands of petitions.”
Vela said money collected from the fines will be invested in Romania’s chronically underfunded health service.
Augustin Zegrean, the former president of the Constitutional Court, told Digi 24 that he had expected the ruling, not just for the fines, but the way they were calculated “which was unclear.”