Foreigner facing criminal case in Poland

Foreigner facing criminal case in Poland should learn his rights while being involved in criminal case in Poland.

From year to year, we can see an increasing amount of foreigners engaging in business activities in Poland. Investments’ opportunities and quite liberal immigration policy encourage people from other countries to come to Poland. Having different cultural background, both legal and business like, may cause many foreigners to unknowingly break norms of Polish criminal law.

Once it happens, foreigners shall be aware of Polish law in order to protect their rights while facing criminal case in Poland. The official langiage of the court in Poland is Polish. However, foreigners who do not speak Polish are granted the right to free assistance of an intrepreter throughout the entire criminal proceeding. This standard has been stipulated in the art 72 § 2 k.p.k. (Polish Code of Criminal Proceedings). The assistance of an intrepreter has been stipulated both at the preparatory proceedings (initial proceedings), i.e. investigation stage and at court proceedings (court of each instance) when a foreigner is party to.

In accordance with the principles the judical body shall independently decide when to ask for intrepretor’ assistance whenever they become aware of insufficiant knowledge of Polish by a defendant.

It does not seem that the defendant who does not sufficiantly speak Polish could waive his rights resulting from the art. 72 § 1 k.p.k. The same conslusion may be drawn from the rule of serving copies of certain judgements and indictment together with translation as stated in the art. 72§ 3 k.p.k.

The law requires to apply to the interpreter the provisions relating to to the experts (art. 204 § 3 k.p.k.). So, based on the art. 195 k.p.k. It is not only sworn translator who will be obliged to act as intrepreter. A person that is known to have an adequate knowledge of the language may act as interpreter. According to the judical decisions, there is no difference between an expert opinion submitted by a court expert and another expert appointed in this particular case by the judical body.

It happens quite often that a foreigner facing criminal case in Poland wishes to use service of a person who speak his mother tongue but is not a sworn translator and is not granted this possibility. The foreigner might be then forced to spend for example one day remanded in custody as the Authorities need to arrange for a sworn translator to arrive.

The provisions of art. 72 k.p.k. is part of the procedural guarantees a person accused in a criminal case can enjoy based on art. 6 Para 3 point e of European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. As per the above mentioned provision every person charged with a criminal offense has at least the right to free assistance of an interpreter. It means that the State Treasury shall bear the cost related to participation of an interpreter in the proceeding to the extent necessary to to ensure the defendant’ right to defence (art. 619 § 3 k.p.k.).

Filing an appeal by foreigner facing criminal case in Poland

A foreigner facing criminal case in Poland should be very careful when it comes to the deadline for filing an appeal. As per the content of the art. 72 § 3 k. p. k., the delivery of of judgement with its translation into the mother tongue of the defendand is not subject to his appeal. The delivery of the judgement is ex officio. So, the deadline to file an appeal depends on the date the judgement has been delivered. On the other hand, some lawyers represent the opinion that the deadline for filing of an appeal for a foreigner who does not speak Polish does not depend on the delivery of judgement in Polish but on the date of its delivery in the foreigner’ native language.

These opinions are divergent. Thefore, it is advisable for a foreigner facing criminal case in Poland to use service of law firm that would represent his interests from the moment of his detention.