Reform of misdemeanour law

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Project funded by NCN, carried out from 12 July 2017 to 11 July 2020

General information

The basic legal act of the Polish misdemeanour law, which is the Misdemeanour Code of 20 May 1971, was passed over 45 years ago, i.e. in completely different social, economic and political conditions than at present. Despite a number of amendments, the vast majority of which were introduced in the new political and economic system after 1989, this act remains archaic and incompatible with the contemporary social and economic realities. This in turn translates into a serious dysfunctionality of many institutions of the offence law.

Furthermore, in many places, the Misdemeanours Code is inconsistent with other and more recent legal acts, and thus it infringes the cohesion of the Polish legal system. This inconsistency is not only horizontal, as regards the relationship of the Misdemeanours Code with other acts (including the 1997 Penal Code), but also vertical, as the act is at odds with the Polish Constitution and the international law that binds Poland.

The grossly imperfect Code of Criminal Offences is not the only problem of contemporary Polish criminal law. There are also numerous defects in the so-called extra-code misdemeanour law, which contains a much larger number of types of offences than the special part of the Code.

The above leaves no doubt that the Polish law on misdemeanours requires revision. The need for such revision becomes even more apparent when we consider that the misdemeanour law constitutes an important element of the repressive law system and has a major impact on the functioning of society and individuals. On the one hand, it is intended to provide protection against minor, albeit troublesome and relatively frequent violations of the legal order, and on the other to guarantee respect for human rights. Hence, it is socially desirable to ensure an adequate form of misdemeanour law, free from flaws and dysfunctions.

At the same time, there should be no doubt that changes in the area of misdemeanour law, just like major changes in any other area of law, must be preceded by an extensive and cross-sectional scholarly analysis, based on many research methods. It is impossible to talk about a proper reform of the misdemeanour law without prior research consisting in identification and description of its imperfections and formulation of de lege ferenda postulates.

Meanwhile, academic studies concerning misdemeanour law that have appeared in recent decades are almost always fragmentary or annotative. There is a constantly decreasing interest in research on this branch of law, which is particularly visible when compared with research on criminal law sensu stricto. As a consequence, there are no wide-ranging and cross-sectional works, based on many research methods and at the same time up-to-date, analysing the Polish misdemeanour law in detail, exposing its imperfections and indicating the path towards its reform. And it is this research gap, unjustified and preventing a proper reform of the petty offence law, that this research project aims to fill.

Project objectives

The aim of the presented project will be to identify and describe the imperfections of Polish misdemeanour law and to formulate proposals for its reform.


A number of research methods will be applied in the project.

On the one hand, they are intended to establish the de lege lata status, and on the other to formulate de lege ferenda postulates. The starting point will be the dogmatic method, combined with an appropriate analysis of the literature and case law. A significant support for the dogmatic method will be the historical-legal method, which is to show the evolution of the Polish criminal offence law and its conditions, as well as necessary political-criminal and criminological contexts. The latter are connected with the planned empirical research based on statistical analyses and a questionnaire addressed to judges adjudicating in misdemeanour cases. The questionnaire is meant to identify the needs and postulates for changes in misdemeanour law in a practical perspective.

A considerable part of the project will be broad comparative legal research, focused mainly on the search for the best possible models to develop an optimal model of reaction to minor offences.

Head: Paweł Daniluk, PhD, Prof. INP PAN

Magdalena Budyn-Kulik, PhD Prof. UMCS
Piotr Gensikowski, PhD ; Maciej Iwański, MA
Prof. Jolanta Jakubowska-Hara, PhD, Prof. INP PAN
Marek Kulik, PhD, Prof. UMCS
Katarzyna Łucarz, PhD