We, at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee believe that the best thing one can do now is to stay home, if possible. We also do so, as we think this is the socially responsible behaviour for the time being. Cooperating with the police and other authorities is always a civic duty of great priority, especially under the given circumstances.
Today, the Hungarian Government enacted a new decree on lockdown restrictions requiring people to stay home, and listing the specific reasons under which one can leave one’s home. You can learn about the most basic rules of the lockdown here. In this note, you can read about some further questions that may arise concerning the new lockdown law.
The new decree provides that the police or other law enforcement authorities are responsible to control whether the rules of the limited lockdown are complied. This means that law enforcement personnel will monitor if people only leave their homes for well-founded reasons listed in the government decree). It is important to note that the Act on Police has not been modified, meaning that the rules of the police performing an ID check or taking someone to the police station, as well as the provisions of using a handcuff and arms, remain the same. Police measures shall be taken only when necessary, and they shall be proportionate to the offense (may there be one).
The most important questions arising in relation to the new law are:
1. What can the police do if I don’t comply with the rules?
Not complying with the rules of the lockdown qualifies as a petty offence and may entail in a fine of up to 500.000 HUF.
According to the Act on Police, anyone who commits a petty offence, despite being warned to refrain from it, can be taken to the police station. This may happen if you do not keep the proper 1,5-meter distance from other people or, if you are in the grocery store in the wrong time slot (between 9-12 AM, if you are under the age of 65).
2. How can I prove to the police that I left home for a well-founded reason?
When asking where you’re going, the police may ask you to present your personal ID documents: personal ID, address card, etc. You will have to answer and explain why you are outside. Although the law does not make it completely clear-cut how the police shall decide whether or not you have breached the lockdown restriction, a sensible dialogue and cooperative behaviour will most likely help the police to make a good judgement.
3. How will I be able to justify that I had a “good reason” to leave home?
You shall always have your ID and address card on you! If you are not able to identify yourself, you can be taken to the police station. This is a standard procedure which can be applied regardless of the pandemic emergency. We suggest that you have documents on you that can help to verify where you are coming from and where you are heading to, and the reason for having left your home. If you have to go to a medical check up, have your medical documents at hand. If you go to work, have a document verifying your place of work. Although the pandemic executives of the Government said it was not important to have all these documents on you, you can still make the work of the police easier if you have them. If you are not able to verify the purpose of your commute by presenting documents, do not get worried, just tell the police why you left your home. The police may check if you have told the truth.
The situation may change if the Government introduces an absolute curfew. The current restrictions will be in force until midnight 10th April 2020. We aim to provide you with continuous updates on the further developments.
The system of legal remedies remains unchanged, meaning that unlawful police measures can be challenged. If you believe that you had a good reason to leave your home and you still got fined or were taken to the police station, you may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like to kindly ask you to cooperate with the police while running errands and leave home only if necessary!