Forgot Passport - Prosecuted


Mar 19th, 2013, 08:38 AM
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Forgot Passport - Prosecuted

I left my passport in my friend's hotel room while going from Switzerland to Paris for one night on the train. I was detained on the train, filled out some paper work, and allowed to continue. I had no issues with immigration on the train when I returned as I showed them the paperwork they gave me when I left. They told me the matter was closed, but I now know that is not the case. I received something in the mail back in America (after about six weeks) saying I'm being charged with a crime that can be $3,000 per day. Also, they are asking for detailed personal financial information. I'm considering just sending them a copy of my passport (which they requested), but ignoring the other request and basically just selectively exercising my right to remain silent. I'd like to be able to travel to Switzerland and the other Schengen countries again, but if they try to pin some ridiculous fine on me, I will be spending my tourist dollars elsewhere. Any advice from anyone who has made this unfortunate mistake would be apprecaited. Thanks!
MCKWE is offline  
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Mar 19th, 2013, 08:50 AM
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Are you certain that this is connected to the passport incident, as it sounds a lot like a scam asking for financial info. If you send a copy of your passport you could be leaving yourself open to identity theft.

Which country sent the letter? If that's clear, then take it and your passport, together with the other paperwork you received at the time, to the relevant embassy. Don't send anything by post.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 09:04 AM
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Thanks for the response, Rubicund. The letter came from Switzerland and it looks legitimate. I checked the address on the letter and it matches the gov't office in Lausanne and the person who suppousdly signed the letter is a judge in Switzerland, but your advice is good nontheless. Unfortunatly, the nearest embassy/consulate is about a four hour drive for me, so I may try to call them first.

Do you think it would be better to contact the Swiss embassy in Amercia or the US Embassy in Switzerland?

Thanks again.
MCKWE is offline  
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Mar 19th, 2013, 09:08 AM
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I would take all the paperwork to my congressman's office and let their office sort it out for you.
eurotravler is offline  
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Mar 19th, 2013, 09:22 AM
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If you were charged with a crime, what was it?

I'd be less concerned about my future 'tourist dollars' and more worried about extradition....
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Mar 19th, 2013, 09:42 AM
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Well, you are allowed to roam around Europe without a passport, that wasn't a good thing to try, being a foreign citizen. And I think maybe you aren't telling all the details as to what the issue is -- such as how long you were in Europe to begin with and what you were doing there. Because I think there can be crimes/fines for overstaying the time you are allowed without a visa, as well as requirements for business people.

Also, you don't have any right to remain silent, what are you talking about.

It sounds like a fine for overstaying a visa.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 09:47 AM
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I would send a copy of the letter to the nearest Swiss consulate to your residence, with a cover letter explaining the situation, your concerns that the letter might not be legitimate (although sounds as if it is) and your reluctance to send a copy of your passport and financial details.

Then, wait to see what happens next. I hardly think extradition is likely, for God's sake, but don't ignore the request entirely.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 09:53 AM
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I don't think extradition is likely, either, but there is probably more to this than has been disclosed so far.

And in any case there's not a lot of point asking these type of questions on a travel forum anyway.

Still, it provides an entertaining discussion so no harm done.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 10:41 AM
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MCKWE: Seriously, I would take that four hour drive...getting to the bottom of this dilemma. I'd not chance it to letters and phone calls. There may be a Swiss consulate closer to you. Many of the bigger cities would have consulate.
tower is offline  
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Mar 19th, 2013, 11:11 AM
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Seems pretty obvious to me why you get into this type predicaments to begin with...why (oh, why?) are you consulting a travel forum on a sensitive legal matter when you obviously have better places to look for an answer?

You do not even clearly state your citizenship (Americans do not typically called the United States "America") and, for how long were you there in Europe overall? TWO very critical pieces of info for anybody to even attempt to offer good advice. As opinions go, I think the information asked has to do with a VISA violation and the financial means that you had to support yourself as a long term foreign visitor, a typical question on a work VISA transaction.

Get your behind to an Embassy and stop wasting your time and others in futile inquiries on travel chat rooms....
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Mar 19th, 2013, 11:12 AM
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I think the sugestion of contacting your Congressperson is a good one.

Are you going to postlater and tell us how this plays out? I often move around without my passport - not usually between countries tho. But I feel safer with another form of ID and my passport back in the hotel.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 11:20 AM
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Good grief a passport back in your hotel room..Next to your skin in a $ belt is the best way. A PP is so precious I would never let it out of my sight. As far as hotel safes go they are easily opened as has happened to me on request, of course, but never the less opened by front desk personel.. As to the poster..Get specialized advise from someone who knows!!!
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Mar 19th, 2013, 11:43 AM
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First off, thank you all for your tips. I was surprised to get this many responses so quickly. To answer a few specific questions:

mjdh1957 - When I put the French sentence about the crime in Google translator it comes back with this: "An investigation was opened against you following a denunciation of the Federal Customs Administration. You are accused of being between Switzerland and be for the benefit staying without a valid passport."

Christina - You are actually NOT allowed to roam around Europe without a valid passport. That is what got me into this mess. I was there for about a week on vacation and did not have a visa, nor did I need one. The right to remain silent is one of the few things written in English on my paperwork. That is what I'm talking about. Do you need any further details or wish to provide more sass?

Cathinjoetown - That is good advice. Thank you.

Viajero2 - I was born in America (excuse me, the United States of America) to two American parents and am 100% American. Your financial means comment matches up with some information I found elsewhere on the Internet involving the Shengen agreement. Thank you for that. It has something to do with preventing poor refugees from flooding certain countries, etc. I'm quite certain I have not wasted anyone's time. Here in America (excuse me again, the United States of America) we have the right to choose what we read and write. No one was forced to read my post or respond. I appreciated everyone's responses, even your response.

For everyone asking why I took this issue to a travel website: I assumed I was not the first person to forget his/her passport and thought maybe I'd find someone who was in a similar mess. Also, I figured I'd exhaust easier options like this before tackling harder, more time consuming, and more expensive options like hiring a lawyer, etc.

I left a message with the Swiss Embassy in DC, but have not heard back yet. I tried calling the Consulate in Atlanta (Closest to me), but they were out to lunch. I will try again soon and keep you all posted. Thanks again for all the comments! I do appreciate them.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 01:59 PM
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Would you care to post the French sentence about the crime in its original form on this thread. It seems extreme to fine you with $3000 for a mere oversight (even you might acted without much thought). I might be able to elucidate.


Phil is offline  
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Mar 19th, 2013, 02:09 PM
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I wouldn't bother with the congress-critter. What help are they supposed to be with a foreign government?
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Mar 19th, 2013, 02:17 PM
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Phil - Thanks for offering to help. Here are three unrelated sentences I struggled to translate (without the accent marks), but thought were significant:

1. Une enquete a ete ouverte contre vous suite a une denonciation de l'Administration federale des douanes. Il vous est reproche d'etre entre en Suisse et d'y avoir sejourne sans etre au benefice d'un passeport valable. I ASSUME THIS IS JUST THE LEGAL FRENCH WAY OF SAYING I GOT CAUGHT WITHOUT MY PASSPORT TRYING TO CROSS THE BORDER.

2. Le jour-amende est de 3000 francs au plus. Le juge en fixe le montant selon la situation personnelle et economique de l'auteur au moment du jugement, notamment en tenant compte de son revenu et de sa fortune, de son mode de vie, de ses obligations d'assistance, en particulier famiilales, et du minimum vital. 3,000 FRANCS PER DAY FOR WHAT EXACTLY?

3. Je vous impartis un delai au 7 mars 2013 pour me faire parvenir une copie de votre passeport ainsi que des eventuels visas y figurant. DID I MISS SOME MARCH 7 DEADLINE OR DID SOMETHING START ON MARCH 7?
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Mar 19th, 2013, 02:35 PM
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I know French fairly well, will try:

1) does basically say that, but it really says you were caught in Switzerland traveling without a valid passport. I think some or all European countries have a law that you have to have valid identification on you. It doesn't mention crossing the border as the issue.
2) it says the daily fine is 3000 francs or more, the amount fixed by the guy who gave you the citation, based on his subjective opinion basically as to your situation and financial situation and family obligations and the minimum amount needed for daily existence (I think they want to make sure someone isn't an illegal immigrant). It also appears they might feel sorry for someone who was poor and had ten kids to support and fine them less, or wouldn't take all your money from you that you needed to survive on a basic level.

3) says you had until March 7th to provide them a copy of your passport as well as any visas you have.

Didn't they tell you that when they gave you the warning in Switzerland, that you had to provide them when a copy by a certain date?

There are actually laws in the US like that, if you are stopped for something and can't provide identification, the police can make you get it or hold you, I believe (such as making someone retrieve it and bring it).

It sounds like you are just being charged with not having a passport on you for ID, they just caught you at the border, that's all. YOu might want to read this about laws in Switzerland which says it is a law that you have some ID or passport on you:
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Mar 19th, 2013, 02:35 PM
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"Also, you don't have any right to remain silent, what are you talking about."

Christina: you have violated the first rule of wisdom.

The right to silence and protection against self-incrimination has been a right in the EU since at least 1996 (Murray v. UK, ECHR). Switzerland is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights which gives the European Court of Human Rights authority to enforce the Convention upon application of individuals against member states.

To the OP: this MAY be a situation like a minor traffic fine in the US where you just need to show proof of ____ (insurance, registration, etc) and the citation will be wiped out. European courts tend to have severe fines (they slap hard to make sure you don't do something stupid again). But don't take my word for it.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 02:36 PM
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Take it seriously the Swiss are pretty tight about this sort of thing. A friend of mine was arrested in Switzerland for being without any money in his pocket, after falling asleep in a hot churchyard and no passport (in the UK you do not need to carry ID at all times). It took my Sister-in-law a few hours to track him down and get him out of jail.

Get in touch with the asap.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 02:48 PM
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Christina - Thank you for the translations. Regarding #3, that is what I was afraid of. I specifically asked the officiers both leaving Switzerland and returning if a) I needed to present my passport once I had it and b) do anything further and both sets of officials said no. In fact, the last one told me I could throw the papers they gave me in the trash. My French is quite poor, but their English was very good. That is very frustrating. I could have easily visited the office in Lausanne and resolved it before it escalated.

Current plan:
1. I've got calls into the Swiss Embassy and Consulate.
2. I've got an email into the US Embassy in Bern.
3. My girlfriend does a lot of business in Switzerland and happens to be there right now. I may email her a copy of my passport and see if she can go in person and resolve it for me.

BigRuss - I hope you are right, but I'm going to treat it like bilboburgler said until I know otherwise.

Thank you all for your help! I will keep you posted.
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