The Legal Evaulation of the Low-Level Offences in the Hungarian Criminal Law

When people hear the word crime or fellony, probably come the most serious crimes in their minds, like homicide or rape.

However, there exist also such actions in the law, which cause not so significant damage to the society, altough they are also apostrophised as criminal acts. These crimes represent usually the lowest level of criminal offenses, for example the misdemeanor of simple battery, defamation, slander, public nuisance or vandalism.

1. Typical low-level offences

Based on section 226 of the hungarian criminal code, any person who engages in the written or oral publication of anything that is injurious to the good name or reputation of another person, or uses an expression directly referring to such a fact, is guilty of defamation. On the other hand, someone commits a slander, if he or she makes a false publication orally or in other way tending to harm a persons reputation in connection with his professional activity or libelously, before the public at large.
By means of the hungarian criminal code, vandalism shall mean causing damage by injury to or destruction of, the property of others. On the other hand, any person who displays an apparently anti-social and violent conduct aiming to incite indignation or alarm in other people is guilty of public nuisance.
On the basis of the law, we are talking about simple battery if the injury or illnes caused by battery takes less then eight days to heal.

2. The punishment of the low-level crimes

The above mentioned criminal acts are considered as misdemeanors, therefore in such cases the criminal code determines a lower punishment as in the case of felonies. Regardless of that, all of these misdemeanors are punishable by imprisonment not exceeding one, two or three years. The degree of the penalty depends on certain „qualifying circumstances”, which are enumerated by the criminal code.
However, based on section 33 of the criminal code, if the criminal offense committed carries a maximum sentence of three years of imprisonment, the term of imprisonment may be substituted by custodial arrest, community service work, fine, prohibition to exercise professional activity, driving ban, prohibition from residing in a particular area, ban from visiting sport events or expulsion, or by any combination of these. The application of these substitute penalties depends on the aggravating and mitigating circumstances and on the discretion of the judge.

3. A simple solution: the joint committe procedure

In the case of low-level offences the hungarian legislators adopted the policy, that it is more important to make up for the loss caused by the criminal act, than to assert the right of the state to inflicft punishment. Because of that, the hungarian criminal procedure offers a peaceful and simple solution in such cases: the joint committe procedure.
On the basis of the law, this method can be applied in the case of certain criminal acts punishable by imprisonment not exceeding five years and it aims the accomplishment of an agreement between the suspect and the victim. If the procedure is succesful, the criminal procedure will be ended by the authorities without calling a penalty.

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