Penalties & Enforcement

The Swiss Penal Code provides different kinds of penalties for felonies and misdemeanours. They range from a suspended monetary penalty to lifelong imprisonment.

Table of contents

Fines and Monetary Penalties

Both the monetary penalty and the fine are an obligation to pay the state a certain sum.

Fine

The fine is a penalty in the form of a fixed sum of money. Suspended enforcement of the penalty is not possible when it comes to fines. They must always be paid. The verdict already contains an alternative custodial sentence of a minimum of one day and a maximum of three months, to be enforced in the case of a person culpably not paying their fine.

Monetary Penalty

The monetary penalty is a specific amount of money divided into a certain number of daily penalty units. The number of daily penalty units is determined according to the culpability. The amount of money corresponding to each daily penalty unit is calculated based on the personal and economic situation of the offender at the time of the verdict (income, assets, living expenses, support payment obligations, minimum subsistence level). A monetary penalty can be suspended or unsuspended. A (unsuspended) fine is usually imposed together with the suspended monetary penalty (cf. Art. 42 par. 4 of the Swiss Criminal Code).

Under certain conditions, monetary penalties and fines can be paid off in the form of community service.

If the convicted person does not pay the monetary penalty in the period determined by the authorities – ranging from one to six months – and the payment can not be brought in through debt collection proceedings, the monetary penalty is replaced by an alternative custodial sentence. One daily penalty unit corresponds to one day of imprisonment (art. 36 of the Swiss Criminal Code).

Prison Sentences

A prison sentence is an officially ordered penalty which restricts a person’s personal freedom of movement. The objective of the prison sentence is to protect the public and reintegrate the offender into society in the medium term.

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A suspended or partially suspended custodial sentence is a penalty which is not enforced for a certain amount of time (probation period) or only partially enforced. The entire penalty or a part of it are deferred.

If the convicted person does not become recidivist during probation and does not fail to comply with the conditions of probation assistance, the penalty is remitted, meaning that it is not enforced. However, if the offender shows any form of misconduct, i.e., if they do not follow conduct orders and instructions of the probation assistance or if they commit another offence during probation, the court can retroactively enforce the suspended penalty or prolong the probation period.


Conditions and implementation

If the unsuspended part of the partially suspended custodial sentence is executed, the penalty is served in the following facilities: Affoltern Prison (Gefängnis Affoltern), Airport Prison (Flughafengefängnis), Bachtel Correctional Facility (Vollzugszentrum Bachtel), Winterthur Semi-Detention Prison (Halbgefangenschaft Winterthur), Pöschwies Correctional Facility (Justizvollzugsanstalt Pöschwies), or one of the correctional facilities of the Eastern Switzerland Corrections Concordat (Ostschweizer Strafvollzugskonkordat, OSK), primarily the Cazi Tignez Correctional Facility (Justizvollzugsanstalt Cazis Tignez).

As opposed to suspended custodial sentences, unsuspended custodial sentences must always be served. The penalty is served in the form of a sentence in a closed or open regime, semi-detention, by the day, electronic monitoring, or community service.

Closed regime

The sentence is served in a closed regime if there is a risk of the person absconding or committing another offence. In a closed regime, there are walls surrounding the facility. In the canton of Zurich, the institutions of the Zurich Correctional Facilities as well as the Pöschwies Correctional Facility offer secure custody.

Open regime

The courts decide on a prison sentence in an open regime if they can assume that the limited supervision and monitoring possibilities suffice to prevent absconding or a new offence and protect the public. In the canton of Zurich, sentences within an open regime are usually served in the Bachtel Correctional Facility.

A custodial sentence can replace a fine or a monetary penalty if the convicted person does not pay and the authorities are unable to obtain the money even through debt collection proceedings. In the case of monetary penalties, the duration of the alternative custodial sentence is calculated based on the number of daily penalty units. If a judicial authority imposes a fine, however, it already determines the duration of the alternative custodial sentence at the same time.


Conditions and implementation

Alternative custodial sentences are usually served at the Bachtel Correctional Facility (for men) or the Dielsdorf Prison (Gefängnis Dielsdorf, for women).

Adolescents who are 15 years of age at the time of the offence can be punished with up to one year of imprisonment. 16-year-olds can be punished with a sentence of up to four years.

Conditions and implementation

Adolescents serve their sentence in a specialized juvenile facility, separate from the adults. Short-term deprivation of liberty (i.e., pre-trial detention or short-term custodial sentences of up to six months) is executed at an institution in Winterthur (Durchgangsstation Winterthur) and the youth ward of the Limmattal prison (Gefängnis Limmattal). Longer sentences are served in the Centre for Correctional Measures Uitikon (Massnahmenzentrum Uitikon).

Alternative Sentence Forms

As an alternative to serving unsuspended custodial sentences in a correctional facility, there are three special forms of sentences: community service (for prison sentences of up to 6 months), electronic monitoring (sentences of up to 12 months), and semi-detention (sentences of up to 12 months). To serve a sentence in an alternative format, the convicted person must submit a request and adhere to the enforcement conditions. In order for an alternative form of enforcement to be granted, the convicted person must have the Swiss right of residence and the court can not have ordered an expulsion from the country. Additionally, there must be no risk of the person absconding or committing another offence.

Community service

Offenders can replace their fine, monetary penalty, or prison sentence of up to 6 months with community service. They serve their sentence in their free time in social institutions, e.g., a hospital, retirement home, or environmental protection organization.

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Advantages:

  • The convicted person must submit a request.
  • The person has the Swiss right of residence and the court has not ordered an expulsion from the country.
  • The person adheres to the conditions and rules set by the Probation and Corrections Services.
  • The person discloses the elements of the offence that lead to the conviction to the social institution.
  • There must be no risk of the person absconding or committing another offence.

  • Unsuspended custodial sentences up to a maximum of six months: the person is informed in writing that they can serve their sentence in the form of community service.
  • Monetary penalties and fines: people who have been sentenced to a monetary penalty or a fine can use the form below to submit a request to serve their sentence in the form of community service. The person can send the request by mail to the central collection office at the Cantonal Supreme Court (Obergericht Kanton Zürich, Zentrale Inkassostelle der Gerichte, Postfach, 8021 Zürich).
  • If a person was sentenced to a fine by a City Magistrate’s Office or a Prefecture (Statthalteramt): the person can deposit the request in person at the zsge contact point «Busseninformations- und Anlaufstelle der Zürcher Stiftung für Gefangenen- und Entlassenenfürsorge» (zsge-Arbeitsbetrieb, Kanonengasse 20, 8004 Zürich). Here is the information for the procedure (in German):

Convicted persons must complete the community service within two years, or within one year in the case of a fine. They usually have to work at least eight hours a week. Four hours of community service correspond to one day of a custodial sentence, one daily penalty unit of a monetary penalty, or one day of an alternative custodial sentence in the case of contraventions.

The convicted person does not receive any salary for community service. Any transportation and other expenses must be covered by the convicted person.

If the convicted person does not do the community service work, they are given a warning. If they continue to refuse to work, the authorities will enforce the custodial sentence in semi-detention or in the normal manner or enforce the monetary penalty or fine.  

Electronic Monitoring

The convicted person continues their previous work, education, or occupation during the time in which they are serving their sentence and spends their rest and leisure time in electronically monitored house arrest. The electronic monitoring is done by means of a transmitter attached to the ankle of the convicted person. The transmitter sends electrical signals to the electronic monitoring server via radio frequency. If the signals do not correspond with the programmed house arrest times, the system sounds an alarm.

Electronic Monitoring strongly limits the convicted person’s options in their free time and enables the law enforcement authorities to monitor their collusion opportunities. However, it is not suitable for preventing the convicted person from committing another offence.

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Advantages:

  • The convicted person must submit a request.
  • The person has the Swiss right of residence and the court has not ordered an expulsion from the country.
  • The convicted person has a job or is doing training (20 hours a week minimum). Housework, educational work, and unemployment programmes are seen as equal.
  • The person must adhere to the enforcement conditions.
  • The person has a suitable, permanent accommodation.
  • The accommodation allows the monitoring device to electronically transmit the data via land line or mobile phone reception.
  • The convicted person must agree to the implementation plan and the weekly schedule. For the duration of the sentence, the person must give the Probation and Corrections Services access to the accommodation at any given time.
  • All adults living in the same apartment must consent to the electronic monitoring. If the convicted person lives in a residential home or a similar institution, the institution’s management must consent.
  • The convicted person must have a private liability insurance.
  • There can not be any job or family-related reasons or any other important reasons against serving the sentence by means of electronic monitoring.
  • There can not be any risk of absconding or committing another offence.
     

Upon request, alternative custodial sentences and prison sentences between 20 days and 12 months can be served in the form of electronic monitoring. If there are several penalties, they are added together.

The request is to be submitted by mail to the Probation and Corrections Services of the canton of Zurich.

 

The approval for serving the sentence in the form of electronic monitoring can be tied to restrictions and conditions, e.g., participation in a learning program.

Convicted persons must pay 600 Swiss francs per month for electronic monitoring. If the Probation and Corrections Services receive a substantiated request, they can waive a part of or the entire fee.

Semi-detention

Semi-detention means that the convicted person spends their rest and leisure time in a custodial institution. During the day, the convicted person does regulated work or training or is similarly occupied outside the institution. With this form of enforcement, the enforcement authorities allow the convicts to stay in their occupational and social environment.

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Convicted persons can submit a request asking to serve their prison sentence or the remainder of their sentence in semi-detention. The prison sentence can not be longer than twelve months (including alternative custodial sentences), the remainder of the sentence can not be more than six months (taking into account pre-trial or preventive detention).

In order for judicial authorities to be able to grant semi-detention, the following conditions must be met: There is no risk of absconding or recidivism. The person does regulated work or training or is similarly occupied for at least 20 hours a week. Semi-detention is served in the Winterthur Semi-Detention Prison.

Administrative Detention under the Law on Foreign Nationals

Administrative detention under the Law on Foreign Nationals (Ausländerrechtliche Administrativhaft AAH) is a form of custody that is not connected to an offence.

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AAH comprises preparatory detention, pre-deportation detention, Dublin detention, and coercive detention. These are compulsory measures under the Law on Foreign Nationals that are ordered by the Migration Office of the canton of Zurich.

  • Preparatory detention: Preparatory detention serves the purpose of ensuring that any removal proceedings or criminal proceedings possibly resulting in expulsion from the country can be carried out. The Migration Office can have a person who does not have a short-term residence permit (L permit), a residence permit (B permit), or a permanent residence permit (C permit) put into custody while the decision regarding their residence status is prepared.
  • Pre-deportation detention: In order for a judicial authority to order pre-deportation detention, certain requirements must be met: A court of first instance has issued a removal order or an order for expulsion from Switzerland. The decision does not necessarily have to be final and legally binding. Additionally, execution of the removal must be foreseeable and there must be a reason for detention.
  • Dublin detention: The purpose of Dublin detention as a part of the Dublin procedure is to ensure the removal of the person to the Dublin state in charge of the asylum procedure.
  • Coercive detention: Coercive detention is the last resort if no other compulsory measure can achieve the objective of returning the illegally present person to their country of origin against their will.

Administrative detention under the Law on Foreign Nationals is to last no longer than six months. The judicial instances can combine the different types of detention. The maximum duration applies, no matter if the authorities order a single form of detention or a combination of various detention forms.

Under certain circumstances, judicial instances can order administrative detention under the Law on Foreign Nationals or a new detention that exceeds these six months. This is the case if the affected person does not cooperate with the authority in charge or if the transfer of the necessary documents from third states is delayed. Under these circumstances, the maximum duration of detention is 18 months in total. For underage people between 15 and 18 years of age, the maximum duration is twelve months. More particular specifications regarding the detention duration can be found in the corresponding article.

Conditions and implementation

Administrative detention under the Law on Foreign Nationals must be separate from deprivation of liberty under criminal law and in a criminal procedure. The incarcerated people should have the opportunity of being in contact with other inmates who are in administrative detention. Contact via letters, telephone or visits can only be restricted to a limited extent by the executive authorities. In the canton of Zurich, the Airport prison enforces administrative detention.


Legal basis

Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (Bundesgesetz über die Ausländerinnen und Ausländer und über die Integration AIG; SR 142.20)

Pre-extradition detention serves the purpose of ensuring the extradition of a person to the country that filed a request for extradition due to a criminal investigation or the execution of a sentence.


Conditions and implementation

Pre-extradition detention takes place in the institutions of the Zurich pre-trial prisons (Untersuchungsgefängnisse Zürich). The same rules as in pre-trial detention and preventive detention apply. However, the authority responsible for incarceration can issue provisions that deviate from these rules (§ 128 Abs. 2 JVV).

  • The coercive measures court orders pre-trial detention if there is a strong suspicion that the person committed the offence and if there is a risk of absconding, collusion, carrying out the criminal act, or reoffending. The purpose of pre-trial detention is to ensure that the criminal investigation is not obstructed and the accused person can not evade prosecution.
  • The coercive measures court orders preventive detention to secure an accused person. It usually comes into play after a criminal investigation is concluded and before the verdict is enforced. The requirements and execution of preventive detention correspond with those of pre-trial detention.
  • Accelerated commencement of a sentence or a measure is a special form of execution of sentences or measures. It takes place after the criminal investigation is concluded and before there is a legally binding or enforceable verdict. The purpose of accelerated commencement is that the accused person has better chances of reintegration even before the legally binding final judgement is issued. The prosecution authority or – after the charges have been brought – the court must permit the anticipatory execution of the sentence or measure.


Conditions and implementation

Pre-trial detention and preventive detention take place in the institutions of the Zurich pre-trial prisons. The doctors of the Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich (Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik Zürich) provide the appropriate care and supervision in both normal and crisis situations. The anticipatory commencement of a sentence can also take place in the Pöschwies Correctional Facility if the sentence is longer. The same applies if a person begins their indefinite incarceration measure early. For adolescents and young adults, accelerated commencement of sentences and measures is possible at the Centre for Correctional Measures Uitikon.

Contact

Corrections and Rehabilitation More information

Address

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P.O. Box
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