The Secondary Sanction of the Seizure of Items Determined by the Minor Offences Act
By Decision No. Up-431/17, dated 5 November 2020, the Constitutional Court decided on a constitutional complaint against a final judgment by which the court seized the complainant’s personal vehicle on the basis of the second paragraph in conjunction with the first paragraph of Article 25 of the Minor Offences Act. The vehicle was seized in minor offence proceedings against another person who committed two minor road traffic offences with the mentioned vehicle.
The Constitutional Court began by stressing that the purpose of the secondary sanction of the seizure of items determined by Article 25 of the Minor Offences Act is not to punish offenders but to prevent them from using the item with which they could commit the minor offence again, or to eliminate the risk stemming from the mere existence of the item. The basis for the seizure of items is thus not guilt but the risk of recidivism. It is not intended to be applied in a punitive manner but exclusively in a preventive manner. In this context, the seizure of items is not punitive in nature but has the character of a safety measure.
The Constitutional Court further cited its existing case law, according to which the seizure of items entails an interference with the human right to private property guaranteed by Article 33 of the Constitution. The seizure of items is therefore admissible only if it pursues a constitutionally admissible objective (the third paragraph of Article 15 of the Constitution) and if it is consistent with the general principle of proportionality (which follows from Article 2 of the Constitution), i.e. if it is appropriate, necessary, and proportionate in the narrower sense with respect to the benefits arising due to such seizure.
In the case at issue, the court seized the complainant’s vehicle to prevent the offender from repeating the minor road traffic offences and consequently from threatening human health and life. The Constitutional Court agreed with the standpoint of the court that there was a likelihood that the offender, who had already been convicted several times of committing serious minor road traffic offences, could repeat such minor offences. However, it did not agree with the court’s assessment that from the established circumstances there follows a likelihood that the offender would repeat such offences with the complainant’s vehicle and that the seizure of the complainant’s vehicle was the appropriate means to prevent the risk of the offender’s recidivism. The Constitutional Court therefore assessed that the seizure of the vehicle entailed a disproportionate interference with the complainant’s right to private property determined by Article 33 of the Constitution. It abrogated the challenged final judgment in the part deciding on the secondary sanction of the seizure of items and remanded the case in this scope to the court of first instance for new adjudication.