I am dr. Katona Csaba, a criminal defense lawyer in Hungary. In the following article I would like to describe the rules of criminal proceeding in Hungary.
The Hungarian criminal procedure consists of two main parts. The first part is the investigation. (Police, National Tax and Customs Office etc.) The second part is the judicial procedure.
How does the investigation procedure work in Hungary?
The authority questions witnesses and, if necessary experts etc. The objective is to collect the evidence. At the end of the investigation, the authority decides whether to close the case or send it to court. The investigation is led by the prosecutor’s office. The general investigation authority is the police, but in certain cases the National Tax and Customs Office or the prosecutor’s office may also conduct investigations. During the course of the investigation, the authority tries to uncover the circumstances of the criminal offence, to establish the identity of the person who committed it and to locate the evidence.
How does the judicial process work in hungary?
The Hungarian judical system consists of two levels. There is a court of first instance and a court of second instance. There is no jury in Hungary. The judge, the prosecutor, the defense lawyer and the defendant are present at the trial.
What happens in the court of for istance?
The name of the first court hearing is preparatory hearing. At the preparatory hearing the defedant can make a confession and waive any right for further evidence. In such a case a judgment can be delivered immediately. In this case, the criminal procedure is closed.
If the defedant can’t make a confession, the court fixes a date for a hearing trial that is the arena for conducting the evidentiary procedure. During the trial the accused person may defend himself/herself, the parties may submit motions for evidence, based on whether the court will hear witnesses, obtain an expert opinion, etc. The court proceedings at first instance can take years. When the judge has heard all the witnesses, experts, etc., the evidentiary proceedings are concluded and a sentence is delivered. The defendant has the right to appeal against the sentence to the second instance court.
What happened in the court of second instance /appeal court?
Here, as a rule, there is no evidentiary procedure. There are now three judges to decide.
The judges give a judgement within one day. The trial usually takes no longer than 2-3 hours. So it is very important that all the necessary evidence is given before the court of first istance. The court of second instance will work from the material of the court of first instance. The decision of the court of second instance is legally binding and only in very exceptional cases can the defendant appeal against it.
What decision can the court of appeal make?
The second instance court may either
- or reverse (provided the case of completely unfounded or a material procedural rule was breached, very rare) the first instance decision and instruct the acting first instance court to conduct a new procedure.
What rights do you have during criminal proceedings in Hungary?
- You have right to authorize an attorney at law.
- During the course of your hearing you are not required to make a statement. You can refuse to testify or respond to the individual questions at any time during the course of the hearing. You cannot be required to give any testimony which indicates any wrong-doing on your part, or to provide evidence against yourself.
- You have the opportunity to plead guilty during the procedure. If you do so, you may avoid punishment, the procedure may be shorter, and your punishment may be less severe; but this is not certain.
- A suspected or accused person who does not understand or speak the language of the criminal proceedings concerned will be provided without delay with interpretation during criminal proceedings before investigative and judicial authorities, including during police questioning, during all court hearings and during any necessary interim hearings.
- You have the right to make a statement at any time.
- You have the right to question witnesses and experts.
- You have the right to see the entire investigation file in the case.
What are the essential investigation files?
- charge sheet or indictment
- criminal complaint
- criminal record
- witness statements
- expert opinion etc.
You can find more useful informations about the hungarian law system below: