How can I be involved in the trial?
You can participate in the trial as a victim (aggrieved party). You can also enforce your claim for damages by becoming a civil claimant (1) right after the opening of the first hearing. If the prosecutor drops charges against the defendant during the proceedings, you can also become a substitute private prosecutor (2).
You are entitled to an interpreter free of charge if you use your mother tongue, regional or minority language or another language, and free translation of decisions and other official documents.
You have the right to be notified, in writing, by phone, fax or e-mail, or orally, if you appear personally, about the date and time of court hearings. You will be officially called to participate, if you give testimony as a witness or you act as private prosecutor (3). If you, as a private prosecutor (3), fail to appear, this will be considered as a dropping of charges and the court will terminate the proceedings.
You as a victim, and your legal representative, are entitled to be present at the court hearings, even if they are not public. You are obliged to be present, if you are called as a witness or have to be subjected to measures such as inspection of a scene or an object, evidentiary experiment and identification line-up.
In general, the court has to inform you about your procedural rights. As a victim or civil claimant (1), you are specifically entitled to:
- make motions concerning the evidentiary proceedings;
- be informed about appointing an expert;
- submit a request for and be informed about issuing a restraining order against the offender;
- propose the exclusion of a judge, prosecutor or registrar;
- ask questions and cross-examine the defendant, witnesses and experts;
- give testimony as witness; if you have limited capacity to understand the meaning of refusing to testify as a witness due to your mental or other state, you may only testify if you wish to do so and your representative/custodian consents;
- submit a motion for the proceedings to be recorded by audio or video means, or by stenography;
- inspect the case file on the premises of the court and request copies, which the court has to deliver within eight days of your request;
- have the floor before the court delivers judgment and after the prosecutor’s final speech and speak about the guilt of the defendant and, if you are a civil claimant, justify the damage you claim;
- have your expenses (4) reimbursed.
As a substitute private prosecutor (2), you generally have all the rights of the public prosecutor, including the right to submit a request to restrict or deprive the defendant of his/her personal liberty.
As a victim or private prosecutor (3), you may be represented by a lawyer or your adult relatives with a clear criminal record. As a substitute private prosecutor (2), you have to be represented by a lawyer, unless you have completed a bar exam.
You can also be represented by a lawyer as a legal aid provider, or, if you are part of a particular group, by an NGO established for the protection of your group.
You are entitled to victim support services – immediate financial aid, legal aid and facilitation of protection of your interests.
What are my rights as a witness?
When you are called for an interview as a witness you have to attend the court hearing and answer the questions that the judge will ask you.
You may make your witness testimony outside the courtroom via video conference. Participation in the hearing via video conference may be ordered if:
- you are less than 14 years old;
- the crime committed was against life, limb or health or was a violent offence by nature committed against a person (either a crime against marriage, family, youth and sexual morality, or other);
- your health conditions or other circumstances make it disproportionately difficult for you to appear at the hearing;
- you take part in the special Protection Programme (5), or if your safety so requires;
- you are detained and your presence at the hearing would endanger public safety.
Taking your testimony via video conference may be initiated by the prosecutor, the defendant, the defence counsel, you, the attorney representing you, and your representatives and the person looking after you if you are a minor. Video conference may be ordered by the court at its initiative.
You may ask the court to exclude the public from all or a part of the trial.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are a minor, you have a number of additional rights:
- if you are under 14 years of age, to be heard as witness only if your evidence cannot be substituted and be subjected to confrontation only if this will not cause you anxiety; to be heard via videoconference or in a private hearing; if you have been heard during investigation by a judge, you will not be summoned to the hearing; if you have not been heard during investigation, but your hearing is necessary, the judge will conduct it outside the court room, or you will be heard by another court and not summoned to the actual hearing;
- if you are under 18 years of age, to have your parents/legal representatives/custodian present at your interview as a witness;
- to have a restraining order issued against the offender;
- if you have financial difficulties, to have free legal representation under all circumstances.
Can I receive legal aid?
Irrespective of your capacity in the proceedings, you may request legal aid free of charge if:
- you have financial difficulties to pay for a lawyer and
- you are not personally capable of enforcing your rights in an efficient way due to the complexity of the case, your lack of experience in law or other personal circumstances.
You may be entitled to free legal representation by an attorney if you are a victim, a private prosecutor (3), a civil claimant (1) or in another way interested in the case. If you are a substitute private prosecutor, you have to be represented by an attorney, but if you cannot afford it, you may request personal cost exemption and free legal representation.
You should direct your request to the regional Legal Aid Service competent at your domicile, habitual residence, accommodation or workplace, personally or by post. Forms are available in Hungarian and English and should be accompanied by relevant documentation, proving your eligibility. If legal aid is granted to you, you should choose a legal aid provider from a special register.
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
You can participate in the proceedings without direct contact with the offender, for example by delivering testimony via video conference. You or the attorney representing you may request this from the proceeding court before the day of the trial, in due time. This is done, if you are a minor, if you are a victim of a violent crime, if your health condition or other circumstances make it difficult for you to appear or if you take part in the special Protection Programme (5). If the testimony is delivered via video conference, your personal characteristics (face, voice) may be distorted with the help of technical means, to protect your identity.
The court can also order a private hearing for ethical reasons, to protect a participating minor or other participants, state or official secret. The court may decide to hold the hearing outside the courtroom to ensure enhanced protection and special treatment for vulnerable groups.
If you are called as a witness your personal data may be treated confidentially by order of the court upon request or as part of its duty. In that case it will be seen only by the court, the prosecutor or the investigating authority and will be deleted from the copies of case files seen by participants in the proceedings.
In exceptional cases, in order to protect your life, physical integrity or personal liberty, the court may decide to give you or your family members/relatives/partner personal protection. Personal protection is performed by the police.
You may also be protected within the framework of a special Protection Programme (5). If you are participating in the Programme, you are called or notified of actions, or sent documents only through the protection body. You will use its address as your address of residence. No one, including the authorities, may be provided with copies of documents containing information about you, unless the protection body permits. You may refuse to give testimony that may imply certain information about your new identity or place of residence.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, the police officers have to make sure that you are safe, and, if necessary, to accompany you to the nearest crisis centre.
In cases of sexual offence or domestic violence against you, or upon a prosecutor’s request, the court can issue a sixty days' restraining order, to prohibit the offender from approaching you, or your home.
How can I claim damages from the offender or receive compensation from the State?
Your main avenue for claiming damages from the offender is to act as civil claimant (1) (private party), which you can do during trial right after the opening of the first court hearing. The fact that you have not acted as a civil claimant (1) in the proceedings does not prevent you from enforcing your claim before the civil courts – the court may also decide that you have to do so and its decision is not subject to appeal.
You can also claim State-provided compensation. Please consult the factsheet on compensation to crime victims in Hungary (available in English, Hungarian and other languages) of the European Judicial Network.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
You may propose at any stage of the proceedings to refer the case to penal mediation if the conditions for that exist. Mediation is applied only once in the course of proceedings:
- for certain crimes against the person, against property or traffic offences, provided that the crime is punishable with a maximum of five years of imprisonment;
- with your consent and that of the offender.
Mediation cannot take place if the offender is a habitual criminal or qualified recidivist; he/she committed the crime as a member of a criminal organisation; the crime resulted in death; if he/she committed the crime while on probation, while sentenced to suspended imprisonment before the termination of the imprisonment, while released on parole or under suspension of the indictment; or if the offender had participated in a mediation procedure before and he/she committed an intentional criminal offence within two years after the respective decision became final.
The court suspends proceedings for a maximum of six months to make penal mediation possible. The goal of the mediation procedure is to reach an agreement aimed at compensating the damage suffered by you as a consequence of the criminal offence. The agreement should be acceptable for you and the offender should be able to fulfil it.
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
If you are a foreigner, you can, in particular, benefit from the following procedural rights:
- to use your mother tongue, or your regional or minority language, and be appointed an interpreter free of charge;
- if you are a victim of human trafficking, to have one month to decide whether you want to cooperate with the authorities; to receive a certificate of temporary residence for this month and residence permit in case of cooperation;
- if you are an asylum-seeker, to receive legal aid irrespective of your financial situation;
- to have the consular representative of your country present when you are heard.
- Act XIX of 1998 on the Criminal Procedure (1998. évi XIX. törvény a büntetőeljárásról) – in Hungarian
- Act IV of 1978 on the Criminal Code (1978. évi IV. törvény a Büntető Törvénykönyvről) – in Hungarian
- Act CXXXV of 2005 on the Support of Victims of Crime and State Compensation (2005. évi CXXXV. törvény a bűncselekmények áldozatainak segítéséről és az állami kárenyhítésről) – in Hungarian
- Act LXXX of 2003 on Legal Aid (2003. évi LXXX. törvény a jogi segítségnyújtásról) – in Hungarian
- Act LXXXV of 2001 on the Protection Program of those Participating in Criminal Proceedings and Supporting Jurisdiction (2001. évi LXXXV. törvény a büntetőeljárásban részt vevők, az igazságszolgáltatást segítők Védelmi Programjáról) – in Hungarian
- Act CXXIII of 2006 on Mediation Activity Applicable in Criminal Cases (2006. évi CXXIII. törvény a büntetőügyekben alkalmazható közvetítői tevékenységről) – in Hungarian
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