A criminal offence

By committing a criminal offence, the offender damages the victim’s legal rights. Legal rights are fundamental values such as life, health, and freedom, but also material values and intellectual property.

The Penal Code provides that a criminal offence is an act for which the principal punishment prescribed in the case of natural persons (people) is a pecuniary punishment or imprisonment and in the case of legal persons (an association established pursuant to the law, e.g., a public or private limited company) a pecuniary punishment or compulsory dissolution. The Penal Code also provides that only an intentional act can be punished as a criminal offence.

Intent is a wide concept and includes, for example, that the person considers a certain result to be possible. For instance, when someone is thrown into an ice hole, a reasonable person considers it possible that the other person may drown or freeze. A person is acting intentionally when he or she recognises the possible consequences but carries on the action regardless. If the law does not provide otherwise, then unintentional (a frivolous or careless) act is not a criminal offence. However, there are criminal offences in the Penal Code in case of which a careless act is punished.

Criterias for criminal offences by Criminal law

  • The act includes the necessary elements of a criminal offence – this may be an action or in some cases, inaction (for example, shoplifting or failing to provide assistance to an injured person). A consequence is a change in the external environment (a salesperson has a heart failure and dies; a victim dies). An act immediately causes a consequence; therefore, in this example, the thief cannot be accused in the salesperson’s death but may be accused of theft.
  • There are no circumstances that exclude unlawfulness or guilt (respectively, self-defence or minority in terms of age).
  • The act is intentional.
  • The special part of the Penal Code prescribes an exhaustive register of criminal offences (chapters 8 to 24). The use of an analogy is forbidden in criminal law; thus, acts that are not specifically addressed in the special part cannot be classified as criminal offence.

The degrees of criminal offences by The Penal Code

  • For a criminal offence in the first degree, the Code prescribes the maximum punishment as imprisonment for a term of over five years, life imprisonment, or the compulsory dissolution of a legal entity.
  • For a criminal offence in the second degree, the Code prescribes imprisonment for a term of up to five years or a pecuniary punishment.

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Compiled by: Police and Border Guard Board