A client of the Streetlawyer Association, Marton Kelemen threw away a tissue on the street. Two policemen passing by ordered him to pick it up, which he did. An ID check followed, and Marton was fined for 50,000 HUF for a public health misdemeanour. Briefly, these are the facts that put the misdemeanour proceedings in motion. At the end of the proceedings it should however be pondered if chasing a crime of this severity was worth the invested man-hours, efforts and public money.
Marton has no criminal record, and has never been subject to a misdemeanour case. He had no idea that if he signed the form on the fine for the misdemeanour, he would not only acknowledge committing the petty offense (which he did not intend to deny), but also would waive his right for appeal. As included in the fine print on the back of the form for the fine, his signature means exactly that. The policemen on duty did not inform Marton about this, even though it should be part of the legal process when issuing a fine for misdemeanour. Marton has very bad eyesight, so he could not have read the fine print, but it is not even his obligation, rather the police’s to inform him about its contents.
After signing the form about the on-the-spot fine there is no possibility for an appeal. It is another question whether it is a good thing, but it is included in the act on misdemeanours. The fine should be settled within 30 days, or can be redeemed through public work, otherwise it is changed to confinement. Marton did not know that either, since he was never fined before. The next step for him was receiving an order that the court changes the fine to confinement. He brought this order to the Streetlawyer Association, visiting us at Blaha Lujza square, where we provide free legal aid every Friday between 15.00 and 17.00. As a response to this order, being fortunately within the deadline, we requested a trial from the court, on the basis that the main misdemeanour proceedings were in violation of the law. Therefore it was not a normal appeal (as that is not possible in case of on-the-spot fines), rather a request for the court to review the legality of the main proceedings before changing the fine to custody, and even to overrule the on-the-spot fine.
We think the on-the-spot fine was violating the law for the following reasons: the decision issuing the fine was not in compliance with the misdemeanour act, as it did not contain all the elements required by the law. It only stated that ‘Said person threw away a piece of trash’ and a reference to the legislation, but no information about the case, the evidence, and other circumstances, for instance that Marton was cooperating and picked up the tissue from the ground. On the other hand, the issued fine of 50,000 HUF is the highest possible amount, even though the proceeding authority should take into account the severity of the misdemeanour, the extenuating circumstances, and the offender’s personal circumstances (if known) when deciding about the legal consequence of the act. These requirements of the law were obviously not respected by issuing the highest possible fine for throwing away a tissue (which did not remain on the ground) to a homeless person living on the street, whose income, if there is any, most likely cannot cover the fine.
In addition, when issuing the on-the-spot fine the police failed to give the obligatory information about waiving the rights for appeal by signing the form.
Marton was represented at court by the Streetlawyer Association. The court ruled that the policemen were violating the law by not informing Marton of the consequences of signing the form, while Marton did not have the possibility to read the written information due to his bad eyesight.
Therefore, to our great satisfaction, the court overruled the on-the-spot fine, and Marton does not have to pay it or to go into custody.
If you also have a similar case, turn to the Streetlawyer Association.
A cikket Utcajogász önkéntes fordította. / This article was translated by a volunteer of SLA.