In the following misdemeanor offence-related case, which raised some interesting questions, I was entrusted with the legal representation of an Indian citizen. He was found liable for violating the offence of prohibition of call for sexual service.
According to the case, a policeman on patrol was given the instruction to conduct a checkup in a building in the fifth district of Budapest, which was a common meeting point used for prostitution. Inside, he found and checked the identity of a man and a woman. The man could not be questioned, however, since he was a foreigner and did not speak the Hungarian language. Upon questioning the woman, H. T., the police officer learned that she had offered her sexual services for the man, and they had gone to the building in question. She stated that they had not agreed on the cost of the services and no money had been given over, since the police officer arrived then.
Section 184 (1) of the Offences Act states that the person who calls another person to offer sexual service by offering consideration in a protected zone designated under a separate legal regulation and the person who accepts another person’s offer for sexual service commits a misdemeanor offence. The violators of this offence are to be sanctioned with a fine up to 150 000 forints.
The authority competent in misdemeanor offences-related cases found the person subject to proceedings responsible, therefore it imposed a 101 800 HUF fine on him.
I submitted an objection against the decision on the following grounds. My client, as a foreign citizen did not have any information on the local regulations applicable to the use of sexual services and about the location of prohibited zones. In addition to this, the local governments have still not designated the tolerance zones, so not even a Hungarian citizen could have a clear understanding on whether it was legal or not to accept sexual services at a given place. I asked for the authorities’ decision to be changed, since according to the Criminal Code, one who commits the action on a mistaken assumption cannot be held criminally responsible. Moreover, I found the fine imposed exaggerated, considering it unduly differs from the median value and the authority competent in misdemeanor offences-related cases did not justify this in its decision.
The Court found the objection substantiated and changed the decision passed by the police headquarters by terminating the proceedings.