What is the right of defence?
The Constitution of the Slovak Republic, The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as The Code of Criminal Procedure grant the right of defence to every person against whom criminal proceedings have been brought; this means either the right to self-defence or the right to be defended by a lawyer.
Only lawyers on the Slovak Bar Association's list of attorneys can act as legal counsel. An attorney must have a law degree.
A lawyer is obliged to provide professional legal advice to you. He or she is entitled to file motions, inquiries, and appeals, to collect and submit evidence, and to read the case file. He or she can personally take part in the investigation process and be present during the trial where you have the right to receive advice from legal counsel. If you are in custody, you have the right to have a private conversation with your lawyer.
Finding a lawyer
If charges have been brought against you, you have the right to choose your lawyer by authorising him or her in writing to defend you. If you do not know who to authorise, you can look at the website of the Slovak Bar Association and review its list of lawyers.
Every person has the right to legal advice and can ask any lawyer for such advice. If you are not successful in authorising a lawyer to defend you, you can ask the Slovak Bar Association for assistance. The association will offer a lawyer who is then obliged to provide you with legal advice. You can contact the Slovak Bar Association here.
When is legal advice mandatory?
There are some cases when you are required to have a lawyer. According to The Code of Criminal Procedure, you are required to obtain legal advice, if for example:
- You are in custody,
- You are serving a sentence of imprisonment or you are in a health-care facility undergoing monitoring,
- You are deprived of your own legal capacity or your legal capacity has been restricted,
- You are younger than 18 years old,
- You are prosecuted for a particularly serious crime, and other circumstances.
If, in the above cases, you are not yet represented by a lawyer, you must be represented within a certain period of time set by the court. If you still fail to choose a lawyer, the court will appoint a lawyer for you. Should the court appoint the lawyer and then you authorise a different lawyer, the court will withdraw tits lawyer.
If you are in custody, you have the right to contact your lawyer by telephone or mail.
Paying for a lawyer
During the criminal justice process, the lawyer provides legal advice to you for a fee. The lawyer is also entitled to reimbursement for certain cash expenses, such as travel, telephone calls, photocopying the case file, and other legitimate expenses.
The actual fee can be agreed upon with your lawyer. If you fail to reach an agreement with your lawyer, the lawyer is entitled to the so-called official fee which is defined by the Decree of the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic on Lawyers’ Fees and Compensation.
If you are able to prove that you cannot afford to pay the lawyer’s fee, you are entitled to free legal service. You may ask the court to appoint a lawyer for your case and the lawyer will be paid by the state.
If a lawyer was appointed for you by the court but the court has not awarded you the right of free legal advice, the lawyer’s fee will be paid by the state. However, if you are found guilty in the trial, the state is authorised to recover from you the amount it paid on your behalf.
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