Getting on public transport without a ticket in Germany can land you in jail – based on a 1935 Nazi law


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Dodging as a criminal offense: How proportionate, socially acceptable and also economical is this Paragraph 265a, which in the worst case can end driving without a ticket in prison? The 1935 Nazi law is still in use to day.

Getting on a public transport without a ticket: Yes, anyone who takes the bus or train without a ticket in Germany is committing a crime and will be punished with all the severity of the law. No ticket means a fine, no money for a fine means even more fines and more fines mean JAIL TIME! And there you sit in 2021 because of a Nazi law from 1935.

public transport without a ticket

You are committing a criminal offense and not an administrative offense

If you want to take the S-Bahn from Frankfurt Central Station to the Hauptwache, you have to pay a short-haul tariff of 1.50 euros. A normal single trip costs EUR 2.75, a day ticket for the Frankfurt area costs EUR 5.35. Prices that not everyone can – or will not – afford. Anyone who drives without a ticket because of this is committing a criminal offense and not an administrative offense and may risk imprisonment.

This affects thousands of people in Germany every year. The convicted would be equated with people who were in prison for robbery, murder or manslaughter.

Getting on a bus or train without a ticket has been a criminal offense in Germany since 1935 because of the Nazis. Anyone who cannot afford to pay a fine must take a substitute custodial sentence.

Getting on a public transport without a ticket is “obtaining services by fraud”

According to the Ministry of Justice, 3,019 people were convicted in Hesse last year for the corresponding paragraph 265a of the penal code, meaning “obtaining services by fraud”. Most of them because of fare dodging. 2,816 of them had to pay a fine, 203 were given “other penalties” – including imprisonment, but also, for example, convictions under youth criminal law.

How many people actually ended up in prison has not been statistically recorded, according to the ministry. The exact amount of the fines imposed is also not known. According to the authorities, the costs for a day in prison in 2020 amounted to 181.47 euros.

public transport without a ticket

Convictions mainly hit the poor

Paragraph 265a has its origins in the Nazi era, as the Federal Ministry of Justice confirmed on request: According to this, the abuse of a payphone could not be prosecuted at that time because there was no “addressee of deception”. After all, the “deceived” one in this case was a machine. As a result, Paragraph 265a was enacted in 1935.

Today poor people are mainly affected by prison sentences for fraudulent payments. Most of the time, fines are issued with the option of working through them, for example through social hours. However, this is often not possible for the homeless or addicts, for example – and ultimately a prison sentence, a so-called substitute custodial sentence, is also the result of the Böhmermann criticism.

According to the Hessian Association of Judges, “cases are quite conceivable in which the penalty framework could be exhausted and imprisonment could be imposed”, for example in the case of persistent repeat offenders.

The Berlin initiative Freedom Fund has now bailed 83 people from prisons. 

The Freedom Fund has bailed 83 people who were in jail for riding a bus or train illegally. The Nazi paragraph 265a is to blame.

The campaign works to decriminalize driving without a ticket and pays the fines of people who are in jail for it.

The Freedom Fund is very popular: almost 340,000 euros in donations have now been received to bail commuters without tickets out of jails. Almost 100,000 euros of this has already been spent. A person who was released recently had been behind bars for months and was supposed to stay for another six months – all because they used public transport without a ticket.

public transport without a ticket

Replacement custodial sentence partially suspended due to Corona

According to the judicial administration, 395 inmates are currently serving a so-called substitute custodial sentence in the Berlin penal institutions. Around a third of them are people who are incarcerated for using public transport without a ticket. Anyone caught three times riding public transport in Germany without a ticket and not paying the fine will be reported.

The court-determined penalty can be processed. People without a permanent address or with addictions are often unable to do so and serve their sentences in a prison, usually around 30 days. During the pandemic , the state of Berlin repeatedly suspended substitute custodial sentences in order not to endanger the situation in the prisons due to the higher fluctuation of prisoners. 

Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany


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