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Hungary-Penal Code and Criminal Procedure

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Hungary Index

Hungary's legal system has been influenced by Roman law. The country's first written law code, compiled by Stephen Werboczy in 1514, codified the unwritten laws and customs that had existed up to that time. The Tripartitum, as this codification was called, was modified over the following centuries, but a written, formal law code was not officially published until 1878. This publication formed the basis of the Penal Code appearing in the early 1950s, but many articles remained unchanged until the entire code was republished in 1961.

The Penal Code and a decree on criminal procedures that appeared in 1972 incorporated constitutional revisions made at that time (see Amendments of 1972 , ch. 4). Both the code and the decree reflected the subordination of the legal system to the state, and harsher penalties were meted out for crimes against the state and state property than for crimes against the person and private property. The Penal Code was revised in late 1978 and again in September 1989. The latest revision, which still required the approval of the National Assembly as of September 1989, abolished the use of the death penalty for crimes against the state.

Hungary's system of justice did not subscribe to the adversary system; neither did it recognize common law or precedent (see Judicial Organs , ch. 4). The prosecutor in a Hungarian court was responsible for presenting all the evidence, both for and against the defendant. Defendants had the right to legal counsel, who attempted to ensure that the prosecutor's presentation of the case was unbiased. Judges were bound by the law as written, not by the decisions of other judges. The judge's interpretation applied only to the specific case; it set no precedent for other cases.

Data as of September 1989

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