Homelessness criminalization in Hungary

Published on 11/03/2020

After the amendment of the Act II of 2012 on misdemeanours coming into force on 15 October 2018, rough sleeping became unlawful on the whole territory of Hungary. In June, 2019 the Hungarian Constitutional Court refused to annul the act and found the law in conform with the constitution by declaring “[a]ccording to the values of the Fundamental Law no one has the right to be poor or homeless, this status is not part of the right to dignity…”

Anyone who has been warned 3 times within 90 days for rough sleeping or refuses to obey the order by the police to leave the premise, is committing the misdemeanour of residing on public premises for habitation. The misdemeanour is punishable by confinement in jail for up to 60 days. The proceeding starts with the police stopping and checking the identity of the homeless person, which measures are followed by a verbal warning. Although, all measures must be officially registered in an online law enforcement database, due to the lack of regulation, the stopped persons are not provided with any documentation of the applied measures by the police officer on the spot. Issuing a warning does not even require the admission of liability or signing by the affected person. The law does not limit the interval between the warnings, thus all warnings can be applied even within 1 hour in a single day.

Homeless persons might be stopped by the police without being aware whether they were stopped and checked only or whether they were warned also for committing the misdemeanour of residing on public premises for habitation. In addition to the provisions allowing the court to prohibit the ‘suspects’ to enter into the courtroom and follow their own procedure on a screen from custody while wearing handcuffs, due to the lack of any official documentation on the warnings the ‘suspects’ cannot usually recall how many times they were warned previously, thus they are not able to deny the charge at all.


NOTE: The original blog was forwarded to the POLSTOPS network by the Street Lawyer Association upon approval by the author.

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