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What does a prosecutor do?

Most people think of a pro­se­cu­tor as a cha­rac­ter in Ame­ri­can movi­es: a grey figu­re figh­ting tooth and nail for the case. The one who wants to put the inno­cent hero in pri­son, but the jury fin­ally recog­ni­zes the latter’s truth.

While in a fic­ti­o­nal story this port­rayal is the most cat­ch­ing inde­ed, in rea­lity the prosecutor’s job is more comp­lex, diver­se, exci­ting and impor­tant.

In Hun­gary, the prosecutor’s aim is to ensure the enfor­ce­ment of the law.

The rules orga­ni­zing our lives are as old as the soci­ety itself. Modern soci­eti­es ent­rust the state to regu­late beha­vi­o­urs which are harm­ful to one’s life, phy­si­cal integ­rity and wealth.

The Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce is part of this state struc­tu­re and ful­fil its dut­i­es upon the man­da­te of the citi­zens.

Consequence of an act that violates social co-existence

Ábra: Társadalmi együttélést sértő cselekmény következménye
Ábra: Társadalmi együttélést sértő cselekmény következménye

An act that vio­la­tes soci­al co-existence shall have a con­se­qu­en­ce.
Con­se­qu­en­ces can take seve­ral forms:

  • civil pro­ce­e­dings,
  • mis­de­meanor pro­ce­e­dings,
  • admi­nistra­tive pro­ce­e­dings,
  • and in case of the most seri­o­us infrin­ge­ments for which no other solu­ti­on is accept­ab­le, cri­mi­nal pro­ce­e­dings.

In case of a law infrin­ge­ment, the com­pen­sa­ti­on and pro­tec­ti­on of the vic­tim is also one of the main focus of the pro­ce­du­re.

The Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce of Hun­gary deals pri­ma­rily with cri­mi­nal cases.

The prosecutor’s role in criminal procedures

Ábra: A büntetőeljárásokban résztvevő állami szervek
Ábra: A büntetőeljárásokban résztvevő állami szervek

There are three state institutions participating in the criminal procedures:

  • investiga­tive aut­ho­ri­ti­es
  • Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce,
  • courts

The Hun­ga­ri­an Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce pri­ma­rily deals with cri­mi­nal cases.

It is cru­ci­al that acts harm­ful to soci­al co-existence tri­gger legal con­se­qu­en­ce.

Anot­her impor­tant goal of the work of the Hun­ga­ri­an Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce is to ensure that vic­tims of crime rece­ive some form of pro­tec­ti­on and remedy.

The Prosecution Service is the only authority that partakes in the criminal procedure from the start of the investigation until the delivery of the final verdict

Ábra: Az ügyész feladata
Ábra: Az ügyész feladata

The course of a criminal procedure

Ábra: Hogyan folyik egy büntetőeljárás?
Ábra: Hogyan folyik egy büntetőeljárás?
Investiga­ti­on is pri­ma­rily the duty of the investiga­tive aut­ho­ri­ti­es (the poli­ce and in case of cert­ain cri­mes the tax aut­ho­rity).

Preliminary procedure

If it is not obvi­o­us whet­her a crime was com­mit­ted, data can be coll­ec­ted or reques­ted and covert tools may be app­li­ed in order to cla­ri­fy this quest­ion.


In case of sus­pi­ci­on of a crime the investiga­tive aut­ho­rity orders an investiga­ti­on.

The first phase of the investiga­ti­on is called the detec­ti­on. At this stage, there is no per­pet­ra­tor iden­ti­fi­ed to be suspec­ted.

During this phase, the only task of the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce is to pro­vi­de legal gua­ran­tee and super­vi­si­on of the investiga­ti­on.

Accord­ingly, pro­se­cu­tors app­ro­ve the data requests of the investiga­tive aut­ho­ri­ti­es, moni­tor the lega­lity of the investiga­tive mea­sures exe­cu­ted, exa­mi­ne the law­ful­ness of the deci­sions of the investiga­tive aut­ho­ri­ti­es. Furt­her­mo­re, pro­se­cu­tors deal with com­p­la­ints filed aga­inst the mea­sures car­ried out by the investiga­tive aut­ho­ri­ti­es.

Howe­ver, during the detec­ti­on phase, pro­se­cu­tors are not allo­wed to be acti­vely invol­ved in the case and order investiga­tive mea­sures to be exe­cu­ted by the investiga­tive aut­ho­ri­ti­es.


Suspect is a per­son who, based on the obta­ined evi­den­ce, can be rea­son­ably suspec­ted of com­mitt­ing the crime.

The inter­ro­ga­ti­on of the suspect is a strictly regu­lated mea­sure. A per­son beco­mes a suspect only if the investigat­ing aut­ho­rity offi­ci­ally noti­fi­es him/her in per­son and in writ­ten records, of the crime he/she is suspec­ted of com­mitt­ing.

Any devi­a­ti­on from this pro­cess is only allo­wed when the loca­ti­on of the suspect is unk­nown or when they res­ide abroad. In such cases, the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce shall deci­de to con­ti­nue the case in absen­tia.

After the first inter­ro­ga­ti­on of the suspect, the investiga­ti­on enters into the phase of exa­mi­na­ti­on.

Examination/Investigation under prosecutorial supervision

Once the per­pet­ra­tor of the crime is inter­ro­gat­ed as a suspect, the role of the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce beco­mes more sig­ni­fi­cant.

During the exa­mi­na­ti­on phase, the pro­se­cu­tor not only moni­tors the law­ful­ness of the pro­cess, but he/she can also order investiga­tive mea­sures to be exe­cu­ted by the investiga­tive aut­ho­ri­ti­es.

The pro­se­cu­tor is the one who deci­des when the investiga­ti­on aga­inst the suspect can be clos­ed: whet­her the investiga­ti­on sho­uld be ter­mi­na­ted or the cri­mi­nal lia­bi­lity of the suspect can be est­ab­lis­hed.

If the pro­se­cu­tor deci­des that suspect is a per­pet­ra­tor, he /she can take the case to court or call the suspect to account in anot­her way.

Obvi­o­us and strategic aim of the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce is to comp­le­te cases as quickly as pos­sib­le, and only seri­o­us, comp­li­ca­ted and multi-party cases to be bro­ught to court.

Thus, at the end of the investiga­ti­on - if the investiga­ti­on is not ter­mi­na­ted - the pro­se­cu­tor has seve­ral opt­ions:

1.) Divers­ion can be app­li­ed: it means that the case will be hand­led out of court juris­dic­ti­on and the perpetrator’s cri­mi­nal lia­bi­lity is est­ab­lis­hed by the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce.

Forms of divers­ion:

  1. repri­mand: The pro­se­cu­tor issues a writ­ten deci­si­on descri­bing the crime com­mit­ted and calls the per­pet­ra­tor to avoid com­mitt­ing furt­her cri­mes.
  2. con­di­ti­o­nal pro­se­cu­to­ri­al sus­pen­si­on of the pro­ce­du­re: The pro­se­cu­tor may sus­pend the investiga­ti­on for a spe­ci­fi­ed time-period if law-abiding beha­vi­o­ur can be rea­son­ably expec­ted from the suspect which could lead to ter­mi­na­ti­on of the case.

    If the suspect ref­ra­ins from com­mitt­ing furt­her crime during the sus­pen­si­on peri­od, the pro­se­cu­tor ter­mi­na­tes the pro­ce­du­re aga­inst the suspect after the expiry of the sus­pen­si­on peri­od.

    For the sus­pen­si­on peri­od, the pro­se­cu­tor may deter­mi­ne some rules of beha­vi­o­ur for the suspect, in case of fai­lu­re to comply, the pro­se­cu­tor reopens the case.

  3. media­ti­on:The media­ti­on pro­cess may be app­li­ed if the suspect admits com­mitt­ing the crime and offers to com­pen­sa­te the vic­tim in a way the lat­ter agrees to.

    For the dura­ti­on of the media­ti­on, the pro­se­cu­tor sus­pends the cri­mi­nal pro­ce­du­re. If the media­ti­on pro­cess is succ­ess­ful, and the suspect comp­le­tes the con­di­tions agreed bet­ween the suspect and the vic­tim, the cri­mi­nal pro­ce­du­re aga­inst the suspect will be ter­mi­na­ted.

    In case of more seri­o­us cri­mes, even a succ­ess­ful media­ti­on pro­cess could not lead to the ter­mi­na­ti­on of the case, howe­ver, the court may redu­ce the punish­ment wit­ho­ut lim­it­ati­on.

2.) The pro­se­cu­tor may bring the case to court by pro­po­sing an expe­di­ted pro­ce­du­re:

  1. The pro­se­cu­tor may request a penal­ty order: the court deci­des on the cri­mi­nal lia­bi­lity of the defen­dant wit­ho­ut a trial, only by revie­wing the case files.
  2. The pro­se­cu­tor can request a sum­ma­ry trial: the sum­ma­ry trial takes place wit­hin one month from the inter­ro­ga­ti­on of the suspect. All par­ti­es must attend this trial in per­son. If the suspect has been caught in the act, the trial shall be held wit­hin fif­teen days from the date of per­petra­ti­on.

4.) The pro­se­cu­tor may file an indict­ment: The case will be adju­di­ca­ted at a for­mal trial.

If the pro­se­cu­tor brings the case to court, the suspect beco­mes a defen­dant.


After the indict­ment was filed, the court holds a pre­pa­ra­to­ry mee­ting. During the pre­pa­ra­to­ry mee­ting, if the defen­dant admits the crime, the pro­se­cu­tor can pro­po­se the punish­ment which may not be agg­ra­va­ted by the judge.

If the pre­pa­ra­to­ry mee­ting has not been succ­ess­ful, the judge sche­dul­es a trial.

In Hun­gary, the pre­sen­ce of pro­se­cu­tors at cri­mi­nal tri­als is man­da­to­ry.

After the jud­ge­ment, the pro­se­cu­tor has the right to appe­al, thus the case can con­ti­nue in second ins­tance and - in cert­ain cases - in third ins­tance. Pro­se­cu­tors also par­ti­ci­pa­te in second and third ins­tance pro­ce­du­res.

Spe­ci­fic rules and extra gua­ran­te­es apply to juve­ni­le offen­ders. Such cases are hand­led by spe­ci­a­li­zed pro­se­cu­tors.

When the prosecutor investigates

Alt­ho­ugh in most cri­mi­nal cases the poli­ce is the investiga­tive aut­ho­rity, the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce also has the right to investiga­te.

In case of cert­ain cri­mes (for examp­le offi­ci­al bri­bery) or in cri­mi­nal offen­ses com­mit­ted by pub­lic offi­ci­als (for examp­le by Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, jud­ges, pro­se­cu­tors, poli­ce­men, mili­tary per­son­nel), only the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce is entit­led to investiga­te.

Investiga­tions of the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce are car­ried out by spe­ci­a­li­zed pro­se­cu­ti­on offi­ces of investiga­ti­on.

The duties and responsibilities of the Prosecution Service outside the field of criminal law

Bes­ides dut­i­es and acti­vi­ti­es rela­ted to cri­mi­nal law, the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce also deals with cases out­si­de the cri­mi­nal law field.

The Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce has dut­i­es and res­pon­si­bi­li­ti­es in pro­tec­ting the pub­lic inte­rest and in super­vi­sing the lega­lity of the exe­cu­ti­on of punish­ments.

The activities of the prosecutor as a guardian of public interest

Pro­tec­ting the pub­lic inte­rest is one of the func­tions of the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce.

For this rea­son the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce can act not only in case of cri­mes but in case of mis­de­mean­ors, admi­nistra­tive and civil law infrin­ge­ments:

  • - pro­se­cu­tors can ini­tia­te court and mis­de­mean­ors pro­ce­e­dings,
  • - pro­se­cu­tors can launch admi­nistra­tive aut­ho­ri­ti­es’ pro­ce­e­dings,
  • - pro­se­cu­tors can pur­sue legal remedy for unlaw­ful admi­nistra­tive deci­sions.

These res­pon­si­bi­li­ti­es of the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce are called pro­tec­ti­on of pub­lic inte­rest.

Pri­o­rity areas of the pro­tec­ti­on of pub­lic inte­rest:

  • - pro­tec­ti­on of child­ren and juve­ni­les,
  • - con­su­mer pro­tec­ti­on,
  • - pro­tec­ti­on of the envi­ron­ment, ani­mals and soil,
  • - super­vi­sing admi­nistra­tive pro­ce­du­res.

Duties of the prosecutor in supervising the legality of the enforcement of punishments

The Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce assists the law­ful enfor­ce­ment of jud­ge­ments. At the same time, the Pro­se­cu­ti­on Ser­vi­ce gua­ran­te­es the ful­fil­ment of the soci­al objec­tive of punish­ments, namely to pre­vent the con­vic­ted per­son and other people from com­mitt­ing a crime.

Spe­ci­a­li­zed pro­se­cu­tors pay regu­lar visits to pri­sons, to carry out inspec­tions and hea­rings. They hand­le com­p­la­ints regard­ing the detent­ion and high­light even­tu­al defi­ci­en­ci­es to the manag­ement of the pri­son faci­li­ti­es.

The pro­se­cu­tors’ inspec­tions inc­lu­de not only the exe­cu­ti­on of imp­ri­son­ment but of other form of penal­ti­es (such as com­mu­nity ser­vi­ce and fine) and of other mea­sures (such as invo­lun­tary treat­ment in a men­tal ins­ti­tu­ti­on and con­fis­ca­ti­on).