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Emendments to the law on sobering stations partially unconstitutional

Tribunal ruled that the provision on application of an open catalogue of technical devices used to exert direct coercion in the form of immobilisation and the provision concerning the entry into force of the amendment to the Act on Upbringing in Sobriety are unconstitutional.

The Tribunal declared that the provision of the amendment (challenged in the motion by the President of the Republic of Poland) which permits application of direct coercion in the form of immobilisation with “other technical devices” of persons sent to sobering stations was in violation of the constitutional principle of definitiveness of law.

According to the Tribunal, the lawmakers did not define a complete catalogue of measures limiting personal freedom and inviolability. More precise interpretations of the catalogue have been left for the employees of sobering stations to decide upon at their discretion. “An open catalogue of measures of immobilisation means that the recipients of the norm are not certain what particular measures will be applied in their case”, said judge rapporteur Wojciech Hermeliński explaining the reasons for the ruling.

Moreover, the Tribunal pronounced Article 5 of the Act unconstitutional. The Article concerned the date of entry into force of the amendment: 17 January 2013. In this case, unconstitutionality consisted in the fact that the lawmakers did not observe the appropriate period of vacatio legis, or the duration between the date of publication of the new law in the Journal of Laws and the date of its entry into force. The amendment was submitted by the parliament to the President of the Republic of Poland to be signed six days prior to the date of entry into force. The Constitutional Tribunal agreed with the reservations formulated by the President who indicated that the vacatio legis was too short.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights presented an amicus curiae opinion in this case to the Tribunal. In the opinion, the Foundation presented the legislative process of the challenged act and the key shortcomings of the procedure of execution of the Tribunal’s judgments.

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