Interrogation in preliminary proceedings in Poland
Interrogation of the accused
In Poland, the accused is obliged to present himself at the police station in response to the summons by the police. Once there, the accused should only refer to personal data and restrain from statements on the matter itself. There is a risk for the accused that before having contacted a defense lawyer, he could divulge information which in the further course of the investigation and foremost before the court – could be used against him.
The accused should therefore give neither statement nor admit charges brought against him. The right to remain silent resulting from the Polish Criminal Procedure Code about which the accused must be properly informed, cannot be used against him. It is also important that the accused has the right to refuse any statement without indication of reasons. This right applies throughout the course of the criminal proceedings, from the beginning of the preliminary procedure up to the closing of judicial procedures (Art. 175 of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code).
Interrogation of witnesses in preliminary proceedings
Anyone in Poland having received summons to the police or the public prosecutor to testify as a witness, has to comply with this obligation. If the person summoned as a witness does not present himself for the hearing in terms as announced in the summons and fails to present a sufficient justification, risks a fine in the amount of up to 3,000. – PLN (Art. 285 § 1 of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code). In case of an illness, the corresponding certificate of a court doctor must be provided (Art. 117 § 2a of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code).
Right to refuse to provide information (Miranda warning) and right to refuse to give evidence
The next of kin of the accused have the right to refuse to give evidence (Art. 182 § 1 of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code). This right can in particular be used by the spouse, parents and grandparents, as well as children and grandchildren, but also brothers and sisters of the accused (Art. 115 § 11 of the Polish Penal Code).
In contrast, each witness who is not part of the group of persons referred to above, has the right to refuse to answer a question if his answer would expose him or one of his relatives to the danger of being prosecuted for criminal offense or tax offense – Miranda warning (Art. 183 § 1 of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code). It is important to note that in Poland the right to refuse to provide information does not cover situations, in which a witness would expose himself or a next of kin to the risk of being prosecuted for an administrative offense. In such situation, the witness is obliged to answer the questions.
The course of the hearing of witnesses
At the beginning of the hearing, information on the person is requested and the witness is instructed about the fact that a false statement might have criminal consequences. Thereafter, the witnesses are given the possibility to freely relate to the subject matter of his hearing (Art. 171 § 1 of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code). Any questions will then be made as to explain ambiguities or verify the credibility of the witness. It is important that the witness is not being asked the same questions several times in hope that he will eventually give other answers making his statement implausible.
In addition, the interrogating shall ask questions in such a way that the answers are not already suggested in the question itself. Inadmissible is also the attempt to influence the witness by psychological pressure (Art. 171 § 4 and 5 of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code). This might sound very good in theory, but in practice poses very often problems with the evaluation of the questions in individual cases.
It is therefore recommended that also when serving as witness, an experienced defense lawyer should be consulted. However, please note that the Public Prosecutor in course of the preliminary proceedings has the possibility to deny witness the assistance the personal presence during the questioning of witnesses to deny witness assistance and personal presence during the witness interrogation, if in opinion of the Public Prosecutor this is not required for the safeguarding of interests of the witness. But this also means that in course of a police hearing of a witness, police officers have no right to exclude witness assistance from the interrogation (Art. 87 § 3 of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code).
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