September is harvest time in the garden and in the field in Germany. Apples, pears, plums, berries – nature beckons with its juicy fruits. So you are walking and you see a tree with apples or plums. Can you just pluck a few? Is the act of “stealing” an apple or plum legal? Is it considered a criminal offence to steal an apple in Germany?
You are hungry. The question is: can you simply snack on fruit or harvest vegetables that you discover while walking through the forest or that grow over from the neighboring property? Find out below if it is considered a criminal offence to steal an apple in Germany.
- Who does the overhanging fruit belong to?
- What happens if I just take the apple or plum?
- Does that also apply if the fruit from the neighbors fall into your garden?
- Can I pick the fruit in the forest in Germany?
- Tips to avoid getting in trouble in Germany if you decide to help yourself to some fruits and vegetables outside
- Conclusion on why it is a criminal offence to steal an apple
Who does the overhanging fruit belong to?
As long as the fruit is on the tree, it belongs to the tree owner. So the neighbor, in case the fruity temptation protrudes from their property.
If the neighbor has to enter your property to harvest their fruit from the tree, they need your permission.
► However, it is permitted for the neighbor to use a fruit picker to pick up fruits from his property that overhang your property.
What happens if I just take the apple or plum?
If you can no longer withstand the temptation and pluck from the neighbor’s tree without permission, you make yourself punishable in the strict legal sense.
► Until 1975 the offence was called “mouth robbery“.
Nowadays, under Section 242 of the Criminal Code, a stolen apple can be punished as theft. In the worst case, you have to expect an advertisement.
However, if things of little value are stolen (limit: around 50 euros), the police and public prosecutor will only take action if a criminal complaint has been filed.
Attention: The same applies of course to field crops or fruit from farmers. To stubble potatoes in the fields or to take a few onions with you is not allowed – it is theft.
Of course it always depends on the individual case. Even the authorities usually act with the right sense of proportion.
Does that also apply if the fruit from the neighbors fall into your garden?
Unharvested fruit that falls into your garden is yours. You can do what you want with it.
► Attention: If you should get the idea to help something by shaking the branch of the neighboring tree, you are again liable to prosecution!
Of course, it is always best and safest to simply ask your neighbors or farmers so that there are no misunderstandings.
Can I pick the fruit in the forest in Germany?
Yes. However, this does not apply to wild trees and bushes that are on public land. Here you can access both hanging and fallen fruit.
But you should also be careful here. Not everything that looks like public land is also public.
► You can also collect herbs and berries in small quantities for your own use.
Info: Even if it is only a small berry – fruit that you try in the supermarket, you have to pay if the supermarket operator insists on it. Otherwise there is a risk of theft being reported.
Tips to avoid getting in trouble in Germany if you decide to help yourself to some fruits and vegetables outside
1. Remember that the law says in germany
For a long time, mouth robbery was punished only slightly. Until the mid-1970s, the stealing of “food and luxury goods in small quantities or of insignificant value for immediate consumption” was considered mouth robbery and was regulated in the penal code. Since it was only a “violation” from a legal point of view, only a small penalty was provided.
2. Mouth robbery is now considered theft
Today it doesn’t matter what is stolen: it doesn’t matter whether it’s an apple or a wristwatch, it’s theft, which is punishable under Section 242 of the Criminal Code. However, if things of little value are stolen – the limit is around 50 euros – the police and public prosecutor’s office only become active if a criminal complaint has been filed.
3. Ask owner before picking
To be on the safe side when picking or gathering fruit and vegetables, experts advise locating the owner and asking for permission. Otherwise, legal trouble threatens. Because abandoned trees are almost impossible in Germany.
4. Look for legal picking options
If you want to enjoy fruit straight from the tree, you don’t have to become a mouth robber right away. Some municipalities offer completely legal picking options. In the municipality of Kressbronn on Lake Constance, for example, there is a “Naschgarten” that is integrated into a circular route. While hiking, those interested can find out about hops, wine, fruit and berries – and taste the fruits grown in the garden for themselves.
5. Legal picking of fruit: website helps
Information about where you can legally pick fruit is also available on smarticular.net. For example, a map shows where you can collect wild garlic, blackberries or walnuts. Their vision is to preserve local fruit trees, orchards and fruit tree avenues in order to create a fruity basic livelihood for everyone.
Conclusion on why it is a criminal offence to steal an apple
• Fruits belong to those on whose property they grow – even if the branches protrude over the property.
• Anyone on whose ground it falls may collect windfalls.
• It is forbidden to harvest fruits along the way if the areas are horticultural or agricultural.
• Wild berries, herbs, mushrooms etc. are allowed to take home to a small extent for private consumption.
• Everyone can access public areas.