Dr. Csaba Katona I am a criminal lawyer in Budapest Hungary. During my years in university, it was already clear to me that criminal law is the field I would like to focus on. For almost two years I was a demonstrator at the Department of Criminal Law at the University of Miskolc. Thanks to a scholarship I had the opportunity to study criminal law at an Austrian university for 1 year. I have appeared as a defense lawyer in almost all major courts in the country. As a trainee lawyer, I worked in a illustrious law firm in Budapest, where I represented clients in highly publicized criminal cases. After passing the bar exam in criminal law, I decided to set up my own law practice. In order to serve my rural clients, I have an office in Miskolc in addition to Budapest.
What is the role of a criminal lawyer?
A criminal lawyer, defense lawyer or also known as a defense attorney is responsible for representing and defending a person before or during criminal proceedings. It is important to mention here that a criminal lawyer does not defend the crime. The criminal lawyer’s task is to ensure that the rights of the accused are not violated during the criminal proceedings, in simple terms, that he/she is convicted only for what he/she has committed.
In my opinion, a well-founded verdict is the real success of the defense lawyer. In all cases, I tell my clients that I am not a magician and I promise only one thing. I will do my utmost to protect my client. I remain honest, even when the client is facing a long prison sentence.
What is the cost of mandating a criminal lawyer?
The fees vary on a case-by-case basis. The fees depend mainly on the seriousness of the offense and the expected outcome of the case. Some cases may be concluded in one hearing, while others may take years. In my opinion, the fees should be set taking into account all the circumstances of the case. For me, the first and most important step in any case is to review the entire file. After I can be in a position to determine the fee.
A rule of paramount importance in my office is that the lawyer’s fees are always set at a single amount, which includes all additional costs and are paid until the case is concluded. The agreed costs do not change even if the proceedings take much longer than expected. This allows the client to plan ahead and avoid unpleasant surprises.
The retainer agreement shall be drawn up in writing in my office. In this contract, we set out in detail the fees and the tasks. The client will be aware of all the conditions and can feel yourself secure.
When should you seek the help of a criminal lawyer?
It is always crucial to consult a criminal lawyer after you receive a suspect summons.
Developing a defense strategy requires particular expertise. In many cases, the authorities will try to trivialize the case and try to get a confession from the accused without the presence of a defense lawyer. This is part of the investigative technique. It is important to never make a statement or confession without a lawyer.
What to take with you to your first consultation?
Naturally, you should have all the documents from your case with you. The most important are the indictment and the suspect report. An experienced lawyer can get a broad outline of the case from these, but we will always need the full investigation file to develop a complete defense strategy. The investigating authority must provide a copy of the complete file. It is very important that not a single page should be missing from the documents. As the saying goes, “the devil is always in the details”.
What does a criminal proceeding in Hungary look like?
The suspected person receives a summons from the authorities. At the hearing the investigator in the case will read the authority’s suspicions to the suspect.
They are not obliged to answer any questions, but can make a decision to answer and give a statement at any time. As a foreign national, the authority is obliged to provide an interpreter. Criminal proceedings in Hungary are divided into two parts. The first half takes place in front of the Police, or law enforcement authorities and the second half in Court. For foreign citizens, the proceedings can be extremely difficult, so it is necessary to mandate a criminal lawyer. The police officer collects information and questions witnesses along with a few additional tasks. The Prosecutor decides whether to drop the case because it can not be considered as a criminal offense, or to prosecute and continue the case in court
In summary, it is advisable to obtain the complete file and consult a criminal lawyer in all cases and then make a statement. For example many people do not know that a suspected person has the right to see the criminal case file. So you have the right to appoint an attorney. You should be informed of these right before the police start to question you. The investigating authority must inform your attorney of the date and place of your police interrogation, but if your attorney does not arrive within 24 hours, the police may start to interview you without your attorney
You can find more details on the Hungarian criminal procedure here.