Chapters of the article
Limitation of offences
As road users, we commit offences perhaps most often. In this respect, even many a seemingly blameless citizen has a dent. It is, of course, an unpleasant situation and one we would prefer to forget completely. But when will the law and the administrative authorities that investigate offences forget about it?
First of all, two situations must be distinguished:
- the limitation of the possibility of punishing the offence, and
- the limitation of the possibility to enforce a specific sanction (typically a fine).
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Limitation of the possibility to punish an offence
The first situation is dealt with by the Law on Liability for Misdemeanours. According to the Act, the general limitation period for an offence is one year. It applies to the vast majority of offences. The statute of limitations is extended to three years if the offence is an offence for which the law sets a fine of at least CZK 100 000. This includes, for example, certain offences in the field of business or endangering the provision of a health service.
TheSupreme Administrative Court has also commented on the length of the limitation period for those offences where a specific law does not set the upper rate of the fine at CZK 100,000, but only the method of calculating the fine (e.g. as a percentage of a previously unclear amount). According to his judgment, the limitation period for these offences is also one year.
Running of the limitation period
The statute of limitations shall begin to run on the day following the date on which the offence was committed. However, some offences are characterised by their effect. In that case, the limitation period shall begin to run on the day following the day on which such an effect occurs. An example of such an offence would be the forgery of a passport. In the case of a continuing offence, the commencement date will be the day following the date of the last partial attack.
Interruption and suspension of the limitation period
Some offenders believe that by various forms of obstructing the investigation, not receiving correspondence, deliberately issuing a defective power of attorney and other obstructions, they will reach the statute of limitations and be out of trouble. In the past, the law did allow such a procedure, but for several years now this has not been the case. Indeed, the benevolence of the legislature, coupled with busy officials who often did not get around to dealing with the offence for many months, meant that a large number of offences went unpunished.
The law was therefore changed a few years ago. What has remained unchanged is that an offence cannot be dealt with if one year has passed since it was committed. However, the one-year limitation period no longer means that if you don’t receive a decision on the fine within a year, you are finished. The situations in which the limitation period is interrupted have been newly regulated; this is especially the case with the notification of the commencement of the offence. What’s more, a new period of one year will then start to run again. So if, for example, the administrative authority decided on your offence a year and a half after it was committed, but started proceedings six months after the offence was committed, everything is fine in the eyes of the law and nothing is time-barred.
For the sake of completeness, let us add that the limitation period is also interrupted by the issuance of the decision by which the accused is found guilty. If the first act in the proceedings is the issuing of an order, the limitation period is interrupted by the service of the order or by the issuing of a decision approving a settlement agreement.
The law distinguishes the interruption of the limitation period from the so-called suspension of the limitation period, where the limitation period does not run, but unlike the previous situation , the time already elapsed is not erased. Such a situation may arise, for example, when criminal proceedings are brought for the same act. However, the limitation period always applies only to the person who has been prosecuted in this way (i.e. it does not apply to criminal proceedings against another person for the same act).
Tip: A similar statute of limitations applies to criminal offences, which we have discussed in a separate article.
Three years after the commission of theoffence was set as the maximum, i.e. the limitation period after which liability for the offence ceased, assuming that the basic limitation period was one year. If the basic limitation period was three years, then liability for the offence would expire in five years at the latest. However, the period during which the offence was committed shall not be included in this limitation period.
Limitation of the possibility to recover a fine imposed
This situation arises where the offence has been heard and a penalty imposed. The right to collect and enforce the fine is time-barred six years after the year in which the arrears became due. It is therefore relevant whether the offence was decided in January (thus extending the time limit to almost seven years) or in December, for example. However, as in the previous case, if any action is taken to recover the fine, the limitation period is interrupted and a new one starts.