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Last update: 19-04-2007
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Legal aid - Hungary

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. What are the costs of a trial and who should normally pay them? 1.
2. What is legal aid? 2.
3. Can I benefit from legal aid? 3.
4. Can legal aid be obtained for all disputes? 4.
5. Is there a specific proceeding for emergencies? 5.
6. Where can I obtain an application form for legal aid? 6.
7. Which documents should I attach to my request for legal aid? 7.
8. Where should I register my request for aid? 8.
9. How will I be informed of whether or not I am eligible for legal aid? 9.
10. If I qualify for legal aid, what should I do? 10.
11. If I qualify for legal aid, who will choose my lawyer? 11.
12. If I qualify for legal aid, will this cover all the costs of my trial? 12.
13. If I qualify for partial legal aid, who will pay the other costs? 13.
14. If I qualify for legal aid, will it cover any review I might make following the trial? 14.
15. If I qualify for legal aid, can it be withdrawn before the end of the trial (or even after the trial)? 15.
16. If I do not qualify for legal aid, can I appeal against this decision? 16.

 

1. What are the costs of a trial and who should normally pay them?

Costs of a trial are all costs that arise in connection with the trial, either at a court trial or at legal cases not heard by a court. The possible types of costs of a trial and the rules for bearing these costs is regulated differently for civil and for criminal proceedings.

a) Costs of a trial at civil proceedings:

For civil proceedings Act III. of 1952 on the Code of Civil Procedure contains the basic rules concerning the costs of a trial. The Act enumerates the possible types of costs of a trial by citing examples. Such costs might be for example the cost of preliminary enquiries and exchange of letters, levy on proceedings, fees of witnesses and experts, fees of trustees and interpreters, cost of local trial and inquiry. The out-of-pocket expenses and costs of the lawyer acting for the party, the legal adviser and the patent agent have to be counted towards the costs of the trial, as well.

The court awards costs in the final decision on the substance of the case, in which, as a general rule, the losing party is obliged to pay for the costs of the successful party. Under the Act the court may, as an exception, refrain from ordering the losing party to pay the costs of the trial or to pay part of them, but may oblige the persons concerned to bear the costs immediately (for example, if the witness, expert, or other any person not involved in the trial has to be ordered to pay the costs of an action of the trial). The court may take similar action if one of the parties bears the cost of any act of the trial without regard to the decision in the trial (e.g. where the party carries out acts of the trial unsuccessfully or is unjustifiably late with certain actions of the trial or misses a date or a deadline or causes unnecessary costs in any other way). If before the decision on the substance of the case a cost arises in the proceedings that one of the parties has to bear, this cost has to be paid on the party's behalf in advance. If the court decides on paying the costs in advance, then the proving party or the party whose actions generated the costs must temporarily bear the costs that have arisen, but the court decides in the decision on the substance of the case who should bear this cost in the end.

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b) Costs of a trial in criminal proceedings:

On the basis of Act XIX of 1998 on Criminal Proceedings the costs of a trial in criminal proceedings include the following costs:

  • the cost that the state paid in advance in the case from the launching of the proceedings until the end of the enforcement of the sentence and during the extraordinary appeal procedure and the special proceedings,
  • the out-of-pocket costs of the accused, the victim, the civil party, the substitute private prosecutor, the private prosecutor, or the legal representative of the accused and the victim, that arise in connection with the case even if the state did not pay it in advance,
  • the out-of-pocket costs and fees of the designated counsel and the representative of the accused, the civil party and the substitute private prosecutor, even if the state did not pay in advance.

In criminal proceedings the court orders the accused to bear the expenses in criminal proceedings in the event of a conviction. The accused may only be obliged to bear the expenses in criminal proceedings that have arisen in connection with acts if he or she has been found guilty. The accused may not, however, be obliged to bear the expense in criminal proceedings that has arisen unnecessarily, unrelated to his/her misconduct. The portion of the expenses in criminal proceedings that the accused may not be obliged to bear is borne by the state. The state also bears costs that arise in connection with the accused being deaf, numb, blind, unable to speak Hungarian or using a regional or minority language during the process. Even if the accused is acquitted or the proceeding is terminated, the accused must bear costs that have arisen because of his/her misconduct.

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2. What is legal aid?

Legal aid is the institutional system ensuring that persons legally qualifying as persons without resources may receive expert legal advice, representation in the proceedings and cost benefits when enforcing their rights and solving their legal disputes.

3. Can I benefit from legal aid?

Act LXXX of 2003 on Legal Aid will take effect in two steps: the rules concerning legal aid for legal cases not heard by a court already took effect on 1 April 2004, while the new rules on legal aid for court proceedings take effect on 1 January 2008. With the provisions of the Act that already took effect it became possible to use the forms of legal aid that are not connected to legal proceedings (legal advice and drafting). Legal aid for legal cases not heard by a court means that the fees paid for the legal expert providing a legal service defined by law for the party is paid or paid in advance by the state on behalf of the party.

4. Can legal aid be obtained for all disputes?

Under the current rules legal aid is available at both civil and criminal proceedings. During the proceedings the aid system is mainly run by the courts (in the case of criminal proceedings the investigating authorities, the prosecution and the courts). Several factors influence whether legal aid can be provided in the legal dispute in question; the type of legal dispute in question is just one among these. Depending on the type of the legal dispute, legal aid is not available for civil proceedings relating, for example, to company registrations, notarial formalities, etc.

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In criminal proceedings, legal aid depends basically on the situation of the accused. Accordingly, if the accused qualifies as a person without resources on the basis of his/her financial situation, then he or she may be given legal aid, irrespective of the offence charged. The applicant must be given legal aid regardless of his/her financial situation if he or she is for example underage, detained, etc.

5. Is there a specific proceeding for emergencies?

In criminal proceedings in the courts, where the accused or the substitute private prosecutor is a foreign person and obtaining the certificates would delay the proceedings, the court decides on the request without regard for the requirements as to certifications, if on the basis of the circumstances of the case it is probable that the accused is a person without resources.

For legal aid for legal cases not heard by a court, there is a possibility for the applicant to have access to the aid immediately. The relevant regulation provides: "if the duration of the legal service is maximum two hours or the party immediately needs to use legal service provided for a maximum of four hours, the party may apply directly to the person providing legal aid in order to use the legal service". In this case using legal aid will be authorised afterwards.

6. Where can I obtain an application form for legal aid?

The application form for legal aid in court proceedings can be obtained by the party at the court (at criminal proceedings not only the court but also the investigating authority, the prosecution and the place of detention). In the case of types of court proceedings that are not connected to trials the form can be obtained at the local county office of the Justice Department for the party's place of residence and it can be downloaded from the Ministry of Justice website (www.im.hu). If the application is made directly to the person providing legal aid in order to be able to use the legal service immediately (point 5), the necessary application forms will be provided by the person providing legal aid.

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7. Which documents should I attach to my request for legal aid?

In court proceedings the applicant must attach to the request for legal aid the documents needed to establish eligibility. These documents are the following:

  • statement of personal data on the applicant and his/her dependant(s),
  • statement on the financial situation of the applicant and his/her dependant(s),
  • if the applicant or his/her dependant is employed, a certificate from the employer on his/her income at the date of the application,
  • a certificate regarding taxable income received in the calendar year preceding the application,
  • if the applicant receives a pension, the last postal certificate indicating the amount of the pension,
  • if the applicant or his/her dependant receives unemployment benefit or other continuous social aid, the certificate stating the period of eligibility and the amount received.

The following documents must be attached to an application for legal aid for cases not heard by a court:

  • statement of the personal data and financial situation of the applicant and the persons living in the same household,
  • if the applicant or his/her dependant is employed, a certificate from the employer on his/her taxed income at the date of the application,
  • if the applicant receives a pension, the monthly postal certificate from the month preceding the application or the latest account statement (copy),
  • if the requesting person or his/her dependant receives unemployment benefit or other continuous social aid, the certificate stating the period of eligibility and the amount received.

8. Where should I register my request for aid?

Applications for legal aid for court proceedings must be made at the court in the course of the proceedings at the court (in criminal proceedings, at the investigation authority before the indictment, afterwards at the court). Applications for legal aid not connected with court proceedings must be made to the Justice Department or local county office for the party's place of residence or, in urgent cases, to the person providing legal aid.

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9. How will I be informed of whether or not I am eligible for legal aid?

The relevant laws lay down the conditions for eligibility for legal aid. Information is provided by the court for court proceedings and by the offices of the Justice Department for cases not heard by a court.

10. If I qualify for legal aid, what should I do?

If during the court proceedings the court or the prosecutor authorises the application (appointing a court-appointed lawyer, defence attorney or providing cost exemptions), there is no need for further cooperation on behalf of the applicant.

If the office of the Ministry of Justice authorises legal aid for cases not heard by a court, the applicant may then seek persons providing legal assistance in order to use their services.

11. If I qualify for legal aid, who will choose my lawyer?

If representation or defence at the trial has been authorised, the legal representative or lawyer is designated by the court. For legal aid for cases not heard by a court, lawyers, notaries, civil organisations having commissioned lawyers and the university law clinics may provide legal assistance services and the applicants may choose from these from the registry kept by the Central Justice Office.

12. If I qualify for legal aid, will this cover all the costs of my trial?

This mainly depends on what kind of benefit the applicant receives:

a) In civil proceedings cost benefits may be the following based on their content:

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  • exemption from costs is the broadest category: it includes exemption from court charges, exemption from advance payment and costs to be borne during the proceedings and the opportunity to request the appointing of a court-appointed lawyer,
  • exemption from court charges is a narrower category than exemption from costs: through it the party is exempted from the obligation to pay court charges but is not entitled to receive further benefits going together with exemption from costs,
  • in the case of right to levy registration the party enjoying this right may only be exempted from paying the charges in advance, and in such a case the party obliged by court will have to pay the charges after the proceedings are over.

Exemption from costs, exemption from charges and the right to levy registration do not concern the costs of a trial to be borne by the adversary and the obligation to refund the charges paid and the costs paid in advance (enforcement costs) by the parties in the enforcement process.

b) In the course of the criminal proceedings if it is probable that, due to his/her income or financial situation, the accused will not be able to pay the costs of the proceedings and he/she certifies this, the court or the prosecutor decides on the authorisation of personal exemption of costs for the accused the request of the accused or his/her defence attorney. If the personal exemption from costs is authorised:

  • at the request of the accused the court, the prosecutor or the investigating authority appoints a defence attorney,
  • no court charges have to be paid for providing the copies of the documents of the criminal case for the accused and his/her appointed defence attorney on one occasion,
  • the state bears the fees and certified out-of-pocket costs of the court-appointed lawyer.

13. If I qualify for partial legal aid, who will pay the other costs?

Since the current legislation does not distinguish between partial or full exemption from costs at court proceedings, if the court authorises exemption from costs, than this covers all the costs of a trial - with the exceptions in point 12.

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14. If I qualify for legal aid, will it cover any review I might make following the trial?

If legal aid is authorised it extends to all phases of the proceedings, including the appeals procedure and enforcement on the basis of the proceedings.

15. If I qualify for legal aid, can it be withdrawn before the end of the trial (or even after the trial)?

a) In civil proceedings the court checks whether the conditions for eligibility for legal aid are still met as follows:

  • until the final decision in the proceedings, annually on the basis of the date of the authorisation,
  • before the issuing of the enforceable document, if already a year has passed since the final decision in the proceedings, and
  • at any time during the proceedings - including the decision on the request for review - if data comes to light concerning the fact that the conditions were not fulfilled at the time of authorisation or at a later stage in the proceedings.

During the review the court revokes the aid if the party does not comply with what has been stated in the call of the court or if in the course of the review the court establishes that the applicant is no longer eligible.

b) During the criminal proceedings the accused receiving legal aid or the substitute private prosecutor must report all changes in his/her own or his/her dependant's income and financial situation - except where the income decreases or is no longer received - and all changes in his/her personal circumstances that concern the conditions of authorisation. The court and the prosecutor, on the basis of the statement but at least yearly, shall check whether the conditions for personal exemption from costs are still met. The court or, in the case of an accused, before the indictment the prosecutor, may review the eligibility for legal aid of its own motion if data comes to light to suggest that the conditions were not fulfilled at the time of authorisation or at a later stage in the proceedings.

If it emerges from the review that the conditions for legal aid were not fulfilled, the prosecutor before the indictment, or, in the case of a substitute private prosecutor, the court thereafter shall revoke it.

16. If I do not qualify for legal aid, can I appeal against this decision?

The applicant may appeal against the court decision or the prosecutor's decision rejecting the application for legal aid for court proceedings. In the case of forms of legal aid not connected to court proceedings, it is possible to appeal to the Central Justice Department against the decision of the responsible county office rejecting the application. It is possible to ask for a court review against the final decision of second instance of the Central Justice department.

Further information

The most important information, information resources in connection with the Hungarian system of legal aid can be found on the homepage of the Ministry of Justice (www.im.hu).

« Legal aid - General information | Hungary - General information »

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Last update: 19-04-2007

 
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