The legislative powers of the police to stop individuals
The power of the Bulgarian police to conduct stops and searches is codified in several legal texts:
- The Law on the Ministry of the Interior (Zakon za MVR – Law on MOI), adopted on 27 June 2014 and amended most recently in January 2019;
- The Rules for the Application of the Law on the Ministry of the Interior (Pravilnik za prilagane na zakona za MVR – Rules on the Application); and
- The Code of Criminal Procedure (Nakazatelno-procesualen kodeks – NPK).
Article 30 (Law on MOI) introduces powers to conduct checks of documents and on the spot checks, road inspection stops and checks, border inspection checks and other forms of control duties entrusted to the police. The authority to conduct identity checks is explicitly mentioned in Article 70 (Law on MOI). Subjects of identity checks are persons “for whom there is evidence of some criminal offence”. Identity checks consist of the inspection of personal documents that should be presented by the person checked. If identity cannot be established, the check might culminate in arrest (Article 72, line 2, point 4, Law on MOI). During the arrest, additional checks (bodily search) can be conducted to ensure the arrested person is not carrying dangerous objects. Application of force is also permitted if necessary. Same sex officers conduct bodily searches (Article 80, Law on MOI; Article 164, line 2, NPK). The Law and the Rules on its application outline/distinguish checks of persons, personal documents, personal belongings, vehicles (transport inspection), premises and border checks. Procedural steps vary accordingly.
The obligation to register stops
Any check and search of a premises, vehicle or personal belongings is recorded in a police record. The person subject to the check, the police officer and a witness sign the record. Inter alia, the document describes the reasons for the check (Articles 82-83 of the Law on MOI). Any of the signatories has the right to ask for amendments to the descriptions (Article 236, line 2, NPK). When part of an investigation, the check should also be reported to the prosecutor in charge. No data is generated from this record
Legislation procedures which protect citizens from police offences
Personal inviolability is granted by the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria. Article 30 (line 2) states that no one should be subject to detention and search, except in cases strictly defined by the law. Within 24 hours of any detention, the police are obliged to notify the court, which in turn should adjudicate on the justification for the arrest. Searches of premises and confiscation of personal belongings (with some explicitly regulated exceptions) require previous court permission (Article 161, NPK). Following the prescriptions of the Law, identity checks and searches are to be conducted in a way that does not violate the dignity of the citizen (Article 82, line 3 of the Law on MOI). Only officers of the same sex as the person searched can perform bodily checks. Citizens have the right to ask for amendments in the text or may refuse to sign the police record. Records are subject to scrutiny by a judge if the search is part of a criminal investigation. The person affected or a member of his/her family must be present whenever a search of premises is conducted (Article 162, NPK). If a search/check reveals details of intimate character, the police must protect the personal privacy of the person affected (Article 163, line 5, NPK). Within the Ministry of the Interior, there is a Permanent Committee for the Protection of Human Rights. To which citizens can complain, leading to disciplinary measures against police officers who have breached the procedures for checks and searches. When excessive force or other transgressions occur, the victim has the right to turn to the courts, including the European Court of Human Rights.