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What is the procedure for the offence?

Becoming an offender can happen to many of us quite easily. All it takes is a moment of inattention behind the wheel or perhaps a slightly more exuberant party that someone judges to be disturbing the peace. Conversely, we can also become a witness and a whistleblower of someone else’s offence and subsequently initiate offence proceedings. What does such a procedure entail and how does it work?

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Chapters of the article

Misdemeanour proceedings are a type of administrative proceedings in which it is established whether an act has actually occurred, whether it is an offence in a given case, who is the perpetrator and what administrative penalty can be imposed for it.

Reporting an offence

If you suspect (or are sure) that an offence has been committed and it is happening in your immediate area, you can call the national or municipal police to intervene on the spot. Typically, this may be in situations where there are civil infractions such as disturbing the peace, littering, public nuisance, etc. In the case of such a report, there is no need to go through any great formality, just call 156 or 158 and describe the act you have seen or witnessed. The police will enquire about everything relevant and intervene if necessary.

Tip: What is an offence, what are its characteristics, who can be an offender and how do we divide offences? We have discussed this in more detail in our blog article.

If the conduct is long-standing or repeated, or if it is conduct that has already taken place in the past, you can also contact the administrative authority responsible for dealing with the offence directly. For common public order offences (disturbing the peace, public nuisance, etc.), this authority is the municipal authority. Other authorities can be found in the relevant laws governing the offence (e.g. the Cadastral Office, the Czech Environmental Inspectorate, etc.).

In your notification , please provide all the information you have on the offence. If you have obtained any evidence (e.g. photographs, videos, documents, information about witnesses, etc.), do not hesitate to attach it. You may also add your opinion as to what the offence is under the law. If you do not have such knowledge, it is not your responsibility to find out. As part of the notification, it is advisable to ask for information on how the administrative authority has dealt with the notification.

You can report the offence as a bystander, but of course also as a victim (in the case of minors, their legal guardian). To increase the likelihood that the offence will be dealt with, we recommend consulting a lawyer.

Have you received a ticket or summons?

The penalties can be high and it is not worth going through the process without consulting or being represented by a lawyer. Careful reasoning also pays off if you want to draw attention to someone else’s offence.

Initiation of proceedings

Anoffence proceeding is initiated ex officio, either on the basis of a notification of an offence or on the basis of the knowledge of the competent administrative authority from its own activities. There are a small number of offences for which proceedings can only be initiated with the consent of the injured party, such as libel or theft between relatives. In such cases, the person concerned is given a reasonable period of time to give his or her consent.

The actual initiation of the proceedings may be preceded by a request for an explanation from the administrative authority. This may include, for example, an examination of complaints received by the administrative authority from outside. The submission of an explanation can be thought of in a similar way to an interrogation. In general, anyone who is invited to attend a hearing or to give an explanation must do so. You can only refuse to give an explanation if by giving a statement you could put yourself or a person close to you at risk of prosecution for a crime or offence. However, the record of the statement should not be used as evidence later on, precisely because it was made before the offence proceedings started. However, this principle is often violated.

If you are suspected (or subsequently accused) of committing an offence, consider consulting or being represented by a lawyer. A lawyer can help you with the right arguments at this stage, as well as with obtaining evidence. In some cases, this may result in your conduct not being considered an offence at all.

After the administrative authority has collected and assessed all the documents and information, it will decide whether or not to open an offence procedure.

Tip: A legal entity or a natural person doing business can also commit an offence. What kind of offences can be committed in such a case and how are the proceedings conducted? This is the subject of our separate article.

The administrative authority shall not initiate proceedings where it has not collected sufficient supporting documents and does not have the necessary information to justify the initiation of proceedings. This may be the case, for example, where the notifier believes that an offence has been committed but the explanations given by other witnesses do not show anything similar.

In some cases, it is clear that an act which would otherwise be an offence has occurred, but the perpetrator is a child, or liability for the offence has ceased (for example, by the death of a natural person or the dissolution of a legal person). Even in these cases, no offence proceedings are initiated.

Limitation period

The Misdemeanours Act introduces a limitation period after which liability for the offence ceases, so that it is no longer investigated or otherwise dealt with. The limitation period varies according to the seriousness of the offence committed.

For less serious offences, it is one year. For more serious ones, where the upper limit of the fine is CZK 100,000, the law sets a limitation period of three years. The limitation period starts on the day following the date on which the offence was committed.

If the case is not adjourned by the administrative authority, the administrative authority shall send the suspected offender a notice of initiation of proceedings. The moment this notification is received, the proceedings shall be initiated.

In misdemeanour proceedings, it is necessary to prove (or disprove) the guilt of the accused. The burden of proof lies with the administrative authority. The following process is similar to that in criminal proceedings. Anything that proves the state of the case can be used as evidence (in accordance with the law). Typically, this may be an interview of the accused, a witness statement, documentary evidence, an expert report.

Of course, as in criminal proceedings, the accused may defend himself or herself, may use the services of a lawyer, and must also be allowed to ask questions of experts and witnesses.

If guilt is not proven, the suspect is presumed innocent, or the presumption of innocence applies.

Oral hearing

An oral hearing may take place in the context of an offence. However, unlike in criminal proceedings, this is rather an exception and the administrative authority may decide without holding a hearing. As a rule, however, it will order it if the accused requests it and it appears expedient.

Parties to the proceedings

The accused, i.e. the person suspected of having committed the offence, is always a party to the proceedings. The other party to the proceedings may be the victim (i.e. the person to whom the damage has been committed) or the owner of the item from whom the item (e.g. the item used to commit the offence) has been seized.

Administrative decision

The offence proceedings are concluded by an administrative decision. It states whether or not an offence has been committed and, if so, the penalty to be imposed. The administrative decision includes a statement of the possible remedies.

Summary offence procedure

In certain cases, the offence proceedings may also take a summary form. The former block procedure is now replaced by an order, which can also be imposed on the spot. The order imposes a fine when a mere plea bargain is not sufficient and the accused does not dispute his guilt, agrees with the classification of the offence and the fine imposed. It is typically encountered in traffic offences. In this way, the administrative authority may impose a fine of up to a maximum of CZK 10 000 and, in the case of a juvenile, up to CZK 2 500. The accused then receives an order note, which he signs, at which point the order becomes an enforceable decision.

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Representation in misdemeanour proceedings

Have you received a penalty or summons? The penalties can be high and it is not worth going through the process without consulting an attorney. Careful reasoning also pays off if you want to draw attention to someone else’s offence.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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