I have a bike. I got it as a gift from my (then) girlfriend.

I have absolutely no papers from it.

However, in the case of a later legal dispute, I may need to somehow prove it is mine, both in a criminal and a civil law sense.

What could I do?

3 Answers 3


You say "That's my bike."

That will be enough in 99.999% of situations.

In the remaining 0.001% you add the details about who gave it to you and approximately when and where you normally keep it and that amusing (in retrospect) yet alarming (at the time) situation where you got it hooked to the nice lady's bag on the train and nearly missed your stop. And then you show the photos you have of you with your bike.

If someone is claiming that it isn't yours, its theirs then they will need to provide evidence of that. Whoever is judging whose bike it is will decide on the balance of the evidence who has proved their claim.

  • 1
    An example of the 0.001%: Somebody steals it, I find him (using the GPS tracker I've built into the bike before exactly with this reason), I call the police, and then he says, that it is his bike?
    – Gray Sheep
    Mar 26, 2018 at 1:22
  • @GraySheep I didn’t realize German police were terminally stupid. Unfortunately, the law can’t help where the people responsible for administering it are mentally incapacitated.
    – Dale M
    Mar 26, 2018 at 1:37
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    Simply having it in your possession gets you 90% of the way there. You can also probably register the bike with the police (I don't know if this has the force of law but is sometimes done in anti-theft campaigns), or you could communicate the serial number of the bike to your insurance company prior to a dispute arising.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 26, 2018 at 5:47
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    @DaleM I suspect that the primary risk is that the girlfriend might claim that it was a loan of a bike rather than a gift of a bike, following a breakup, and there might be disputed testimony once a dispute arose over what the real understanding was.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 26, 2018 at 5:48
  • @ohwilleke yeah, I think that too but the OP needs to ask that question if that’s what they are driving at - or better still search the site for “gift” “girlfriend” because that exact question has been asked here before
    – Dale M
    Mar 26, 2018 at 5:55

It sounds like you are anticipating a future legal dispute because either you suspect that your ex-girlfriend acquired it illegally or you suspect she may want it back and will deny that it was a gift.

If the former, perhaps you should consider contacting the police to run the serial number and find out if it has been reported stolen. In many jurisdictions, you can do this online anonymously. If it is, you should give it back to the rightful owner. It cost you nothing after all.

If the latter, do you have ANY contemporaneous evidence that at least shows your interpretation of the gift at the time? Did you even send a text that said "Thanks for the bike!"?

If it wound up in court, the judge would have to decide who is more credible, who has a better recollection of the events, and whose story makes more sense. For example, if she bought a bike that would only fit you, and you had exclusive use of the bike for the remainder of your relationship, then it doesn't make much sense for her to argue that she was just lending you the bike. On the other hand, if she had had the bike for a long time or if it was her brother's bike and he was out of the country for a year, then she could make a sensible argument that you were only given the bike to use temporarily.

  • No. I am planning to hide a GPS-tracker in it, and then catch the thief for myself. After that, I will need the police. Using force from my side would be obviously too risky, both from common and criminal law view, this is the police is for. So, the police will see: 1) a man 2) saying for the bike of other people, that it is his own 3) stating from another man that he is a thief 4) wanting that bike back 5) won't have anything to prove it. | In such a case, the most obvious strategy of the thief if he says, he doesn't know anything and it is his bike. And the police won't have anything to
    – Gray Sheep
    Apr 29, 2018 at 11:21
  • intervene. They will most likely say, I need to initiate a commoner law procedure (which is obviously hopeless on the same reason - I have nothing to prove that it is stolen property). | What I want: this man is a caught thief, and thus the police should arrest him and give the bike back to me on the spot.
    – Gray Sheep
    Apr 29, 2018 at 11:23
  • In this case, you just need to accumulate some evidence before the bike is stolen. Take pictures of it, record the serial number, make a video of you installing the GPS tracker, etc. Some police departments take bicycle registrations (check website). But much can go wrong when you bait a thief in this way. If the bicycle is taken to a densely populated area (worst case: apartment building), and police can't identify ONE specific residence to get a warrant, you're out of luck.
    – Jason Wood
    Apr 29, 2018 at 14:27

I am living in Germany, and 6 months ago I bought a bike from someone (without papers of course) that I found in one ads website.

Few weeks later, someone came and said that is his bike, and he wants it back (in Germany, alot of bikes are stolen everyday), and as I refused, he went to police !

Luckly, before I buy anything used from people I don't know (sometimes even the people I know), I make always some screenshots from the ad, and I save some records (if for example the negotiation was done in a social network, or even a mobile).

So the moment the police was by me, I showed them everything, and that was really helpful (of course it was not done in some minutes, but it took some weeks).

  • 1
    That doesn’t really answer the question, though. If the person you got the bike from had stolen it, then it isn’t yours (because you can’t acquire ownership of stolen goods); so you can’t prove what isn’t true. It may of course help you in demonstrating that it wasn’t you who stole the bike.
    – chirlu
    Mar 30, 2018 at 20:37
  • What I would say with my answer, that it is impossible in Germany to prove that something you bought without papers, is yours. Otherwise, you can at least prove that isn't you who stole it.
    – Gothiquo
    Apr 1, 2018 at 9:52

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