Forgot Passport - Prosecuted

Old Mar 21st, 2013, 09:54 PM
  #41  
 
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As you hopefully had been able to obtain valid legal advice from the Swiss embassy, just a few words on this matter to maybe clarify what is the case here.
Again, not what I say matters, but whatever someone with legal expertise in Swiss Federal law says.

With this caveat, I would say:

1) You have been charged with entering /staying in Switzerland without legal permission, i.e. having a visa, or just a valid passport with entry stamps under the visa waiver scheme. This is the maximum possible felony under the circumstances as the border control officers who caught you had no way to assess if you just forgot your passport or did not even have one.
If you can provide proof that you had been a legal foreigner (tourist in your case) for the time in question, the charge of this felony will dropped, and your case will be "downsized" to not having your ID with you. Which is a much different felony (or just a misdemenour) and will incur a much milder penalty - if any.

2) The instrument of "fines per day" is very common in many jurisdictions here. And is, as you experienced, connected to your financial situation. It has nothing to do with the number of days of your "illegal" stay in Switzerland (if it had been illegal, which it was not). Usually the law will be phrased like: For felony A a fine of x daily installments up to y Francs or Euros can be imposed. The x represents the severeness of the felony, the y your financial situation as a percentage of your, usually montly, income.
Again, the CHF 3000 max daily fine reflect the worst case scenario crime, i.e. having no legal permission for your stay in Switzerland, which you can prove was not the case.

3) As you passed the deadline for replying to the Swiss authorities, your statement shall also address this matter. In legal terms you simply apply for a re-instatement of the deadline due to causes beyond your control. In your case it would be the long time the letter needed to reach you.

4) Do NOT submit your statement in a language you cannot understand. Or mark it clearly as a non-binding translation. Or get a legally-binding translation by a notary who understands what he/she is doing.

5) As said above, as a legal alien, e.g. tourist, you are obliged to carry ID at ANY time. No matter how precious your passport is for you, when you leave your hotel without it, you commit at least a misdeamenor if not felony. To make things worse, some jurisdictions make copies of ID documents like passports a felony in itself, i.e. an attempt to counterfeit ID documents. So you commit two crimes in one. While in real life, most cops will understand why you do that, it is up to their assessment if they wish to detain you for that. Which will usually not happen, but you should not make perfect color copies, but rather b/w which cannot be mistaken as counterfeit ID.

Re-read the caveat of first paragraph, and good luck with getting in touch with the Swiss embassy or consulate.
It won't be the first time they encounter someone with this problem so you can expect a normal bureaucratic procedure which you just follow as being told by them.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 03:04 AM
  #42  
 
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MCKWE posted -"...this is just a big misunderstanding and gets cleared up quickly." Actually, this situation is pretty clear cut-- you entered a country without the proper documentation and there are consequences to deal with.

Submit to the Swiss Embassy: both electronically and hard copies of (scan/email/certified-mail hard copies) passport, copy of the hotel bill stay, copies of the train tickets indicating in/out of Switzerland, and copies of the flights tickets itinerary (Roundtrip). This is all evidence of a Tourist type travel.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 03:19 AM
  #43  
 
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I must be in the same group as the OP as I would NEVER carry my passport with me if I was out and about on holiday, it would remain in the safe at the hotel. However if I was crossing a border then I would have it with me.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 03:46 AM
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Not carrying your passport because it had been stolen seems like a reasonable excuse. Not carrying one because you have left it in your hotel room, and were some distance away, might arouse suspicions.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 06:50 AM
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Finecheapboxofwine - First off, awesome name. Yes, I am currently in America. I was just in Switzerland for a week in late January, but obviously regretting it now.

Cathinjoetown and Cowboy68 - Good summary and additional information. Thank you! I appreciate you both taking the time to write it all.

Viajero2 - Perhaps I should have said miscommunication instead of misunderstanding. The March 7th deadline was never communicated to me until well after the fact. In fact, I was specifically told by the immigration officials (who spoke English very well) that the matter was done and no further action was required on my part. It has nothing to do with what time I received their letter, which was postmarked March 3, 2013.

Smeagol - I did not have my passport because I forgot it. It was not intentional. Neither I, nor any travel expert, would advise you to travel around foreign lands without your passport at all times.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 06:56 AM
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Update - I'm faxing the letter (in English and French, with a disclaimer in English on the top of the French letter) and a copy of my passport to the officials today. I'm also dropping it in the mail.

I'm guessing it will end up in some black hole and I will probably never get a response. If I do, I will let you all know. Thank you all so much for your thoughts and advice. It was very helpful, especially since the Swiss and American governments just ignored me.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 07:13 AM
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I hope yo get it sorted.

As a side note my husband, British, resident in the Netherlands, and pre Schengen, once went to Denmark on business. He drove there as he first had to visit a couple of places in Germany on the way.
No problem until he got to the Danish border, where he discovered to his horror that he had left his passport in his office in NL. The Danish immigration people were not happy, but because he had his Dutch drivers licence with him, and after contacting the company he was to visit, they reluctantly let him in. On his return the Germans saw the Dutch plate on the car and just waved him through.
It happens. He was lucky. Sadly you weren't. As I said, I hope you get it sorted.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 07:26 AM
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If you don't get any response from the Swiss it could still be a good idea to contact your Congressperson. Overseas, the embassy helps US citizens to sort out problems. At least in my district (an I live near Atl) there is a immigration liason that has contacts with overseas officials. You're a US citizen, I would think it might be helpful to call or send an email to your Senator or Representative. To my clients that I refer to their reps., the reps are almost always responsive.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 08:58 AM
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When in Florence for a semester last year, my son and his friends traveled to other Schengen countries without passports, using US drivers licenses as ID for planes and trains.

Have the rules for Switzerland changed?

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_p.../cis_4361.html
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 09:24 AM
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I think the only thing a congressperson would be able to do is give you names of attorneys in Switzerland. US embassys are not in the habit of getting involved in local crimes - the most they do is refer the person to an attorney to represent them.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 09:29 AM
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I wonder if we're all obsessing a bit too much on this topic. If the guys in the train were really exercised by the fact that he had no passport, they'd have arrested him there and then. The fact that they let him go without too much thought shows that they were fairly satisfied that he was legit.

The fine is probably the maximum that could be levied for the "crime", but I think that it's probably regarded as a very minor misdemeanor.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 11:17 AM
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No this is Switzerland, they are very law abiding and the whole, "it isn't a big thing", does not work there. This is a significant cultural difference from other countries. They even have laws about which days you can hang your duvets out the window and the use of lawn mowers on Saturdays.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 12:15 PM
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@crosscheck - that link refers to crossing borders. The OP's problem wasn't the border, it was being in Switzerland without having his passport with him. See: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_p.../cis_1034.html

"In Switzerland it is expected that citizens and visitors carry an I.D. and/or a passport. Should the police stop you, and you are without an I.D., it is possible that you may be taken in for questioning."
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 02:28 PM
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Right - so any govt-issued ID will do.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 02:44 PM
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"Right - so any govt-issued ID will do."

For a citizen, no doubt. For a foreigner, I wouldn't count on it. The website of the Swiss embassy in Washington says:

"must be in possession of a valid <b>travel document</b> recognized by the Swiss authorities" (my emphasis)

I doubt your US driver's license would count.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 04:49 PM
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I'm slightly surprised that the Swiss authorities would send you a notice of a fine to the USA (or America) in French. I'd have thought that they would understand that you would be an English speaker, and as German is the official language of Switzerland,it makes no sense to me that they would issue a penalty notice to you in French. Maybe that's a legitimate excuse for non-compliance with the date requirement for response (7th March)- you couldn't understand what was required of you?

And I'm all for leaving the passport safely in a room or apartment - I have never carried my passport unless I have needed to for a particular purpose in another country - ie, hardly ever unless changing accommodation or crossing a national border (and I always carry it then - surprised that this is not part of everyone's "self-patdown" when leaving a hotel room for this purpose).

Actually - on reflection - we didn't carry our passports when crossing backwards and forwards between Rome and Vatican City, but since there is no controlled border, this was never going to be a problem!
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 04:54 PM
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For those upset by how "unfair" the Swiss authorities are, it's also worth considering the response if one turned up at a USA border without passport - I doubt that one would be questioned, then allowed to continue their trip with a penalty notice subsequently sent to their home address!
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 04:58 PM
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<<as German is the official language of Switzerland,it makes no sense to me that they would issue a penalty notice to you in French.>>

German is only one of four official languages of Switzerland, the other ones being French, Italian, and Romansch.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 05:00 PM
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"as German is the official language of Switzerland"

Wrong. German, French and Italian are the official languages. Romansh is a national language, but there is some online dispute as to whether it is an official language. The Swiss embassy website seems to prefer French.

" I'm all for leaving the passport safely in a room or apartment"

I carry it safely in my money belt, unless my hotel room has a safe, and often even then.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2013, 05:18 PM
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Official Swiss website seems to recognise a multiplicity of languages, as you would expect of the nation with its long history of interaction with World affairs:

http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/home/reps.html
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