1. Electronic monitoring (house arrest).

2. A court-appointed attorney in a criminal case

3. Types of penalties according to the Polish Criminal Code

4. How does the judge decide about the punishment?

5. Drink driving under Polish Law (DUI in Poland)



1. Electronic monitoring (house arrest)

If you have been sentenced by a Polish court to imprisonment not exceeding one year and a half (18 months) you can apply for electronically monitored curfew (also known as house arrest), which means that you can serve your sentence at home wearing an electronic device (a plastic band) on your wrist or your ankle.  It is also possible to be granted permission to serve a sentence in this manner if you have been sentenced to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years and you have already served 2 years and 6 months or more.

However, in order to get the court's permission to serve your sentence at home, you need to fulfill a few additional requirements:

 the court decides that serving your sentence at home will fulfill the purpose of your punishment

- you have a permanent place of residence 

- any adults living with you have agreed (in writing) to your serving a sentence at home

- all the technical requirements for the proper functioning of the electronic device in your home are met (if your mobile phone works in your house/flat, i.e. the reception is fine, the band will most likely work as well),

- you are have not been declared a multiple offender by the court

If the court accepts your application, you will leave jail and continue serving the remainder of your sentence at home. You will also be able to go to work (the court will determine the time when you are allowed to leave home and obliged to come back).


2. A court-appointed attorney in a criminal case

According to the Polish Code of Criminal Procedure, anyone charged with a crime has the right to be represented by a defence counsel. If you feel like you need a defence counsel you can retain one or, if you can't afford it, apply for a court-appointed attorney who will represent you for free as long as you can prove that your financial situation prevents you from hiring an attorney. 

According to Polish law there are a few situations when having a defence counsel is obligatory and unless you have hired an attorney yourself, the court will appoint one for you:

- you're younger than 17

- you're deaf, blind or mute

- there are justified doubts as to your sanity both at the time of commission of an offence and during the proceedings

- you've been charged with a felony (i.e. an offence punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 3 years)

Also, when the court decides that there are circumstances  making your defence particularly difficult, you'll be appointed an attorney (as long as you don't hire one yourself). 


3. What kinds of punishment are there according to the Polish Criminal Code?

Under Polish Criminal Code there are several types of penalties: a fine, limitation of liberty (community service), deprivation of liberty, imprisonment for the term of 25 years and life sentence.

There are also penal measures such as: loss of civil rights,  a ban on holding specific posts, exercising profession or conducting a business, a ban on conducting any type of activity connected with education, treatment and care of minors, a restraining order, a ban on accessing a sports event, a ban on accessing gambling facilities and gambling, a ban on driving, penalty payment of a specified sum, making the ruling available to the public, demotion, an order to leave the premises  occupied with the injured person.


4. How does a judge decide about the punishment?

If you've been found guilty of a crime, your sentence will read as follows: 'Mr/Ms X has been found guilty of a crime under Article...of the Criminal Code'. If you then look it up in the Polish Criminal Code, you'll find out what options of punishment the judge had while deciding about your penalty. For instance, under Article 206, any person who concludes marriage despite being already married is subject to a fine, a penalty of restriction of freedom or deprivation of freedom of up to 2 years. This means, that a judge can choose from these 3 forms of punishment and if he/she decides you should go to prison, it cannot be for longer than 2 years. In turn, under Article 150 par. 1, any person who commits an act of euthanasia, is subject to a penalty of deprivation of freedom ranging from 3 months to 5 years. This means that the minimum jail time the judge may impose is 3 months and it can't be any less than that. 

As you can guess from the above, the judge doesn't impose penalties according to the way he/she feels about you and your crime but is limited by the Criminal Code. However, there is always some leeway in sentencing (within the limits provided for by law), especially if a given article allows to choose from a few types of penalties, just like in the example of Article 206 above). While deciding about the punishment the judge has to follow the guidelines listed below:

- the suffering of the sentenced person cannot exceed their degree of guilt (every case is different and you shouldn't suffer more than you deserve for what you've done)

- the degree of damage to society has to be considered (the judge should think about the harmfulness of your crime in a broader perspective - some crimes are harmful to the society  more than others)

- the penalty should fulfill preventive and educational purposes, as well as  shape the legal awareness of society (the penalty should deter you from committing a crime again and teach others that wrongful acts like yours will always be punished).

As you've probably noticed, the criteria mentioned above are quite general and vague but they are not the only things that have to be considered -  the judge will also take into account: the motivation and manner of acting of the sentenced person, the type and degree of breach of duties, the type and size of negative consequences of the crime, features and personal conditions of the sentenced person, the attempts at redressing damage (making amends with the wronged person). All these things can be established  based on the witnesses' testimonies, various documents and very often a pre-sentence report made by a probation officer, who visits the accused person at home, talks to their family and neighbours and describes that person's general conduct in the past and at present.


5. Drink driving under Polish Law (DUI in Poland)

It goes without saying that if you have been drinking & driving you'll face some serious consequences, when caught. According to Polish criminal law driving under the influence can  either be a misdemeanor (a minor offence) or a crime, depending on the concentrationof alcohol  in your blood or exhaled breath.

1. If the concentration of alcohol in your blood is in the range of 0,2-0,5 per mille or 0,1-0,25 mg/dm3 in exhaled breath, you'll be guilty of a misdemeanor called 'condition indicating consumption of alcohol'. If caught, the court may sentence you to arrest (5-30 days) or a fine (PLN 50-5000).  The court is also obliged to impose  a ban on driving which may last from 6 months to 3 years, there's no way you can avoid it. 

2. If the alcohol content in your blood exceeds 0.5 per mille or 0.25 mg/dm3 in exhaled breath, you'll be guilty of a crime called drunk driving (=the law assumes you were drunk when driving). If caught, you can expecct the following: a fine (theoretically it can be even a million zloty, but usually it's a few thousand zloty), the penalty of restriction of freedom of up to 2 years  (usually community work) or up to 2 years in prison. The court can impose one of these punishments or two of them (e.g. a fine and 6 months in prison suspended for 2 years). The severity of the punishment will depend on the content of alcohol and other circumstances  (e.g. driving at night/during the day/in rush hours/ the distance driven etc.).  The most painful consequence for most drivers is the ban on driving which, in case of a crime, is minimum 3 years. In reality it means that when the ban is over, you'll need to take the driving test again. On top of that, anyone guilty od drink driving will have to pay a penalty payment of minimum PLN 5000 (it could be even PLN 60 000, but in practice it's usually PLN 5000-10 000).