A police summons is a document or verbal act by which the Hungarian investigating authority, police (or later the Criminal Court) orders a witness or suspect to appear at the time specified on the document. Another expressions for police summons is subpoena, or writ.
What is a notification, how is it different from a police summons?
The summons or subpoena must be complied with by the summoned subpoenaed witness or suspect. In contrast, notification means that the person notified has the right, but not the obligation, to appear at a criminal trial. For example, a victim has the right to be present at hearings throughout the court proceedings, but is only obliged to appear if he or she wishes to be heard as a witness.
Or, for example, the suspect’s defence lawyer (lawyer) may be present during the suspect’s questioning and must be informed by the police. But he is not obliged to appear, i.e. his absence is not an obstacle to the questioning.
Is the police summons valid in Hungary if the police only make a phone call or email me?
Yes, under the Hungarian Criminal Procedure Act, summons and notices can be served by post, email or by telephone.
How do I know if I have been summoned as a witness or a suspect by the police?
This should be clear from the letter of summons (citation). Whether the witness can become a suspect is clear from this article.
Will the officer tell me on the phone in advance what I have been summoned for?
When someone is called to the police as a suspect, they usually do not get information in advance about the crime they will be charged with.
What happens if I don’t appear to the police summons?
If you cannot attend the summons for any reason, you must report it to the summoning authority (police) at the earliest opportunity. Failure to do so may result in a fine, a summons or even a wanted notice. A suspect may be subject to both a wanted notice and an arrest warrant.
Valid excuses not to appear if summoned: Illness
Everyone who is summoned to give evidence as a witness or suspect is required to appear. However, you may be so sick that you cannot attend, and thus have a valid excuse not to appear at the designated time.
You may be asked to provide documentation of your illness, which you can do by obtaining a doctor’s certificate. It is important that you do not simply fail to appear at the court hearing, even though you think you are too sick to come. You must contact the police who summoned you to appear as soon as possible if you get sick.
Reasons other than illness that prevent you from appearing to a summon
Being busy or having courses, business meetings, etc., are not valid excuses for not showing up at to summon. However, a trip abroad booked before you received the witness summons is normally deemed a valid excuse for not appearing.
Sanctions for failure to appear for a police summons
- A fine is an amount of money that must be paid. In case of non-payment, it will be converted into a detention.
- A summons means that the police will go to someone’s home, usually early in the morning and take them to the police station.
- A wanted notice is usually issued if the witness or suspect is not at the address registered as his or her home. It is not yet an arrest warrant. In this case, the name of the person concerned is entered in a national register, which is seen by all police officers and they are warned when they are stopped.
- An arrest warrant is a more serious measure and can only be issued against a suspect, in which case the arresting officer cannot release the wanted person but must accompany him or her to court or to the authority that issued the warrant within 72 hours.
What if you are summoned as a suspect?
The question regarding what you can do if summoned as a suspect is more complicated than the description of the legal consequences of the obligation to appear in a police summons. If summoned as a suspect I recommend that you read my post on interrogation of suspects and rights of the suspect.