Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

The purpose of this informational material is to furnish a summary of applicable Slovak laws and procedures to Americans arrested by Slovak authorities.

This information package was prepared by the Consular Section of the American Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia. Although the information contained herein was compiled with care and is believed correct, the material is intended as an informal guide to assist American citizens in understanding the laws and procedures governing the legal and penal system in Slovakia and can not be considered definitive or in any way a substitute for legal counsel. The United States Government cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained herein or as to how Slovak law will be applied by the authorities in a particular situation.

Jurisdiction of Slovak Law

Any person, regardless of citizenship, who commits an offense within Slovakia is subject to Slovak criminal jurisdiction.

The Role of The United States Government

Under the provisions of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, to which both Slovakia and the United States are signatories, a United States Citizen arrested or detained in another country has the right to communicate with a Consular Officer of the United States. It is important to note that this right does not extend to persons who are not citizens of the United States, even if they usually reside in the United States or have family members who are U.S. citizens.

In spite of anything you may have heard to the contrary, neither the United States Government nor its consular representatives can get an American out of prison. While in a foreign country, American citizens are subject to the same laws and regulations as all other persons in that country. American Consular Officers can and do intercede on behalf of Americans imprisoned overseas to ensure they are not discriminated against because of their nationality, but there are definite limits as to what they can do to help in any given situation. Neither arrest nor conviction, however, deprives a United States citizen of the right to the Consular Officer’s best efforts in facilitating the welfare and defense of the citizen’s legal and human rights.

What the Consul Can Do

If you are a U.S. citizen who has been arrested or detained in Slovakia, you should ask the police to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. A Consular Officer can visit you in jail after being notified of your arrest in order to check on the treatment you are receiving and to monitor the state of your health and well-being. They can try to get relief if you are held under inhumane or unhealthful conditions. A consul can provide you with a list of local attorneys; the consul is not permitted, however, to recommend or endorse any particular attorney nor is she/he permitted by regulations to give you legal advice. In addition, the U.S. government cannot provide funds to pay for an attorney. At your request and with your written consent, the consul can notify your family and/or friends and relay requests for financial and other aid.

The Consular Officer can intercede with local authorities to ensure that your rights under local law are fully observed and that you are treated in accordance with internationally accepted standards. To do so, the Consul will follow the progress of your case in the judicial process and, where necessary and requested, act as liaison between you and your lawyer, the court, and the prosecutor.

Privacy Act

The Privacy Act of 1974 was enacted to protect American citizens against unauthorized disclosure of information about themselves to other persons without their knowledge and consent. Therefore, if an arrestee wishes the Consular Officer to notify his family or friends of his arrest or any other pertinent facts regarding his imprisonment, health, etc., he must authorize the Consular Officer to do so by signing a Privacy Act release form.

Slovak Criminal Proceedings

When a U.S. citizen is taken into police custody in Slovakia, the police must immediately provide the detainee with information on his rights and about the possibility to retain attorney. The arrestee can be questioned by police. If the detainee is not fluent in Slovak, the police must summon a qualified translator. The police can hold the detainee for up to 48 hours. At the end of that period, the detainee either must be released or remanded to the custody of a court to face specific charges detailed by a prosecutor.

The initial arraignment hearing must be schedule as soon as the prosecutor decides to remand the detainee to the custody of a court. At that hearing, the court must decide if there is sufficient evidence to warrant the charges against the detainee and, if so, whether the detainee shall remain in custody or can be released pending trial (with or without bail or other security guarantees.) The law does not distinguish between a foreigner and a Slovak citizen in determining who can get bail or a bond; however, the judge can take into consideration whether or not the arrestee (or the person posting bond) has a residence in Slovakia and whether he is a flight risk. If granted, bail or bond may include the following restrictions: the detainee may be forbidden to leave Slovakia, to visit certain sites, to keep a gun, to contact certain people, or to drive a vehicle; or the detained may be ordered to remain in a designated area, to check in regularly at a place designated by the court, or to provide money to cover caused damage. The judge’s decision must be given to the arrestee within 48 hours, followed by a written decision delivered to the arrestee, prosecutor and/or attorney by mail within 10 working days.

Detention may last up to 48 months for persons charged with most criminal offenses, while those charged with serious offences can be detained for up to 72 months. Within this period of time, the case must be tried and a verdict/sentence rendered. If not, either the detainee must be released or the prosecutor must obtain a legal extension of the detention.

Criminal cases in Slovakia are heard by a group of judges called a “senate”. A senate in a criminal case usually consists of a presiding judge and three to five other judges. There is no jury of peers; the senate serves as both judge and jury. A stenographer, interpreter, prosecutor and various attorneys are usually also present. Most trials are public; however, if the circumstances warrant, the Chief of the Senate may order the public excluded from the proceedings.

Every person charged and remanded for trial in Slovakia has the right to attorney. If the accused cannot afford an attorney, an attorney is assigned to him. The accused has the right to have an interpreter if he/she does not speak Slovak. The accused has the right to make a statement to all facts and to call his own witnesses.

A convicted person may appeal the court’s decision within 15 days from receipt of judgment.

Typical penalties

Manslaughter: 7-15 years
Murder: up to 25 years or life imprisonment
Fraud: 6 months to 12 years
Theft: 2 -12 years
Robbery: 3-8 years, 7-12 years, 10-15 years, 15-20 years, 15-25 years up to life imprisonment, depending on the degree.
Rape: up to 25 years
Drug possession: 3-5 years
Drug trafficking or selling: up to 25 years
Child Support Neglect: 2-3 years

Deportation

Slovakia does not regularly deport/expel foreigners in lieu of placing them on trial. However, the foreigner may be sentenced to deportation, or ordered deported at the end of their sentence. Deportation without trial is possible only if the foreigner enters Slovakia without proper documentation or if the stay of the foreigner in Slovakia is illegal.