Your rights in Switzerland: Can police enter your home if you break coronavirus rules?

Switzerland has mandated a slew of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, both for public and private domains. But can authorities knock on your door to check if you are complying with the restrictions in your home?

Your rights in Switzerland: Can police enter your home if you break coronavirus rules?
Police can't forcefully enter your home. Photo by AFP

While it is easy to monitor public spaces, checking compliance in the privacy of your home is not as simple.

Let’s say that you disregard the rule limiting get-togethers to five people and invite a larger group to your apartment. Let’s further assume that your neighbours get wind of your infraction and call the police.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland's current coronavirus rules you need to know

What could happen?

By law, the Swiss police can’t enter your home without a search warrant, except in life-threatening emergencies.

“If the residents refuse to open the door, that is their right. They don't have to let law enforcement in”, Florence Frei, communications officer at the Vaud cantonal police, said in an interview with Le Matin newspaper. 

“Pandemic rules don’t give authorities more power”, Frei noted.

She added that “we don’t usually carry out spontaneous checks in the private sphere. While unusual behaviour, increased noise, or other factors may cause us to verify that the restrictions are being observed, entry into the home is only by mutual agreement”.

But that doesn’t mean that the resident will prevail.

Frei said that if the police find on the spot that rules have been broken, they will report the offending person to judicial authorities.

This happened to a man in Clarens, Vaud, who was fined 2,000 francs for organising a party for 70 guests in his apartment in December.

And a woman in Grenchen, canton Solothurn, was fined 1,900 francs for ending her quarantine four days early. 

“Fortunately, refusals to cooperate rarely occur”, Frei said.

What are the penalties for breaching coronavirus measures?

They can be steep.

In December, the Swiss Conference of Prosecutors adopted a uniform set of sanctions for non-compliance with the country's Covid-19 restrictions. 

READ MORE: What are the penalties for breaking Switzerland’s coronavirus rules? 

These are the recommended penalties for individual offenders:

  • Avoiding quarantine or isolation: 1,000 to 1,500 francs
  • Not wearing a mask where it is compulsory to do so: 250 francs
  • Gatherings of more than 15 people in public: 100 francs
  • Avoiding medical supervision: 800 to 1,000 francs

For restaurant owners and organisers of events, the fines are as follows:

  • Serving food and drinks to people not seated at a table: 500 francs
  • Not having a health protection plan in place: 2,000 francs
  • Insufficient protection plan: 500 to 1,000 francs
  • Non-compliance with official health rules: 500 francs
  • Gatherings of more than 50 people: 2,000 francs

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Switzerland jails 84-year-old bank robber

Swiss authorities have sent an 84-year-old bank robber to prison. The man, who robbed the same bank twice, had hoped his age would see him avoid sentencing.

Switzerland jails 84-year-old bank robber

A court in the Swiss canton of Lucerne has jailed an 84-year-old man for two years and four months for two bank robberies stretching back across the past decade. 

The man, named in Swiss media as Willi P, has been given a partially suspended sentence and will only need to serve six months. 

The man robbed a bank in Meggen in 2012 and in 2017, stealing around CHF13,000 in total. 

He threatened the bank’s employees with a folding pocket knife placed inside a plastic bag to look like a gun. 

The man avoided jail in 2021 when the case was brought to court, with the judges saying he was too old. 

This time, the cantonal court disagreed. 

“According to the case law of the federal court, even a relatively old age does not in principle justify a particular sensitivity to punishment, which must be taken into account to reduce the sentence,” the court said. 

READ MORE: Why do foreigners ‘commit more violent crimes’ than the Swiss?

Willi P was remorseful, telling the media he was “heartbroken” by what he had done, telling the press his wife had no idea about the robberies. 

“I’m really sorry for everything and felt heartbroken. Afterwards I said to myself: Hey, you are stupid! Why do you still have to do something like this at this age?”

The man pleaded with the court not to sentence him, saying “I’ve been punished enough with my poor health. I am sorry.”

While the court noted that due to the man’s advanced age he may die in jail, this was not enough of an exceptional circumstance to prevent the sentence.