This is a story about how a newcomer to Germany was given a first-hand look at rednecks in this country, and how the law is set up to protect even them.
S. is one of the nicest fellows I’ve met in a long time. Easy manner, loads of friends, always down for whatever. He arrived in Hamburg three years ago to take a job with a major German retail company. After a couple of weeks on the job he was sent to deliver some documents to work colleagues who lived in a small town just east of Hamburg.
It was a warm summer evening, so S. was driving his sporty BMW Z4 with the top down. He drove around the town a bit trying to find his colleagues’ place, but soon got lost, so he stopped in at the local police station to ask for directions, and was soon on his way again.
That’s when things started to get twisted.
Fifteen seconds after asking for directions, a skinhead jumped in front of his car and blocked his way. Soon a half-dozen rednecks surrounded him, swearing at him and yelling that he should just get the fuck out of town instead of driving around their place. One of them even climbed up on his hood and wouldn’t get off, another tried to wrench off his side mirror.
Feeling seriously threatened, he hit the door emergency door lock button, but the windows and the top were still down, so one guy was able to reach in and grab him by the collar. Luckily S. was wearing a seatbelt, so he couldn’t be dragged out of the car.
With a half-dozen men – and one woman - still braying at him to get out, he did what I think anyone in that situation would have done. Using the gears and the wheel in a nifty swerve to knock the guy off the hood, he tore off out of there, chased by one of them in another car.
After S. finally got to his destination, his colleagues came out to look at his car. Just then the same group arrived to hassle him again, this time with reinforcements, as a group of 10 were now threatening to beat up not only S., but his colleagues as well.
Again, he did what I’d do: got the hell out of town, jumping into his car and speeding away.
My friend was angry and upset, but didn’t pursue it further until he received a summons to give a statement with the police.
In the meantime, the man who’d been knocked off the hood had gone to hospital complaining of various ailments, and was charging him with bodily injury. He said S. had run into him with his car as he was driving like a madman through the centre of town.
In the ensuing court case my friend, who speaks very good German, was able to convince the judge in his testimony that he could not have been driving fast or erratically through the town at the time, because he was trying to find an address in an unfamiliar town, and that’s not how one would be driving if looking for an address.
The judge also dismissed the testimony of the man who accused S. of running into him. The man had no answer when asked why, if a car had slammed into him, he’d suffered no leg injuries.
So the judge chose not to convict my friend, but in the twisted way German justice works, he still had to pay.
His tormenters got off scot-free, but because S. failed to go to the local police that evening to report the incident, he was forced to pay a fine of €1,200.
“I was not found guilty of anything,” S. says, “No criminal record – but in the ridiculous hodge-podge and horse-trading of German law, I was still asked to pay a fine.”
S. wanted to appeal the fine, but his lawyers said all he’d do is rack up more legal costs. His lawyer’s bill with the fine had already climbed to more than €4,000, so he just paid it.
Because the case has only been shelved, and not conclusively ended, S. cannot turn around and charge his tormenters. The case against him has to be officially ended before he can proceed, so his case against the rednecks will probably never be heard.
“It’s a completely bonkers German law which lets criminals slip through the loophole, provided they make the first accusation,” he says.