Can criminal responsibility be sought for false statements declared when crossing the checkpoints of Sofia and other regional centers?
22 April 2020
In the past few days, the topical discussion was on whether people who travelled across the country for the Easter holidays are threatened with criminal prosecution if it turns out that the circumstances they declared when exiting the regional centers were false. Legal opinions have also emerged, arguing that, contrary to the position of the official authorities, citizens are unjustifiably threatened with talk of seeking criminal responsibility.
What is the truth? In short, criminal responsibility can be sought from any person who has crossed the checkpoints of the regional cities established in the country by using a declaration form containing false information about the reason for the travel.
However, the grounds for criminal responsibility will not be Art. 313 of the Criminal Code (CC) or the commonly named false statement. This provision only applies if the obligation to file the relevant declaration form is provided for by a law, decree or ruling of the Council of Ministers. In the present case, the filing of a declaration form concerning the reasons for travel during state of emergency is not provided for in such a statutory act.
However, this does not mean that persons travelling without valid reason are not criminally responsible. The ground for this responsibility is the provision of Art. 355, Para 2 of the Criminal Code, which provides for a punishment for a crime against public health. This crime is committed by violating an ordinance, rules or measures issued against the spread of a contagious disease to humans. Such an instruction is also contained in the very declaration form, uploaded on the website of the Ministry of Interior (MoI), which explicitly states Art. 355, Para. 2 of the CC.
The ban on exiting the regional cities in the country, unless there is a valid reason, is such a measure against the spread of the contagious coronavirus. This ban was introduced by an order of the Minister of Health, issued on the grounds of Art. 2 of the State of Emergency Measures and Actions Act, announced by a decision of the National Assembly of March 13, 2020. Therefore, any travel without a valid reason (including a false declaration that there is a valid reason) violates the ban and will constitute a crime under the said text of Art. 355, Para 2 of the CC. For this violation, criminal responsibility may be sought from the perpetrator and the punishment of up to five years imprisonment, together with a fine in the amount of BGN 10,000 to BGN 50,000 provided for in Art. 355, Para 2 of the Criminal Code will apply.
Therefore, citizens should not rely on allegations that they cannot be held criminally responsible, even if they have filed a false declaration form. Although the act is not a crime under Art. 313 of the Criminal Code, if, upon examination of the declared circumstances, it is found that the reason for the trip indicated in the declaration does not exist (for example - if an unemployed person declared that he/she was going to work), this would constitute a violation of the order of the Minister of Health prohibiting travel for no valid reason. As explained above, any violation of the anti-epidemic measures introduced may be grounds for seeking criminal responsibility. Consequently, compliance with these measures will not only guarantee the health of citizens but will also prevent them from meeting criminal justice.« Previous Next »