CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Like other criminal justice systems in Marxist-Leninist
countries, Hungary's criminal justice system was, until
1980s, heavily politicized. The system, like other aspects
political system, was subject not to the rule of law but
to the whims of the party. As part of its efforts at
democratization in the late 1980s, the government began an
to create an independent judicial system.
Incidence of Crime
Crimes against both people and property soared during
1980s. Violent crime, which also increased dramatically,
disproportionately committed by Gypsies
(see Minority Groups
2). Gypsies made up about 4.7 percent of the population,
numbered 54 percent of those persons convicted of murder
and 49 percent of those convicted of robbery.
Criminal offenses against the state and private
cost the economy nearly US$50 million in 1988, or 0.5
the country's annual budget. Losses from criminal offenses
against private property doubled from 1987 to 1988.
crime, especially bribery of office executives, also rose,
the country's efforts to increase the role of private
led to a new type of criminal activity--money laundering.
By contrast, certain other types of activities formerly
considered illegal by the state had become legal under new
tolerant laws. Thus, in the late 1980s liberalized
customs regulations reduced currency crimes by 25 percent
smuggling cases by 20 percent.
In the 1980s, the level of alcoholism in Hungary grew
fastest rate in the world. In the 1950s, the communist
considered alcoholism to be a "remnant of the past," but
increase in alcoholism over the years had forced the
to pay attention to this problem. The rapidly rising rate
alcohol consumption was fueled by an increasing number of
and youth with drinking problems. About 120,000 children
families in which one or both parents were heavy drinkers,
reports surfaced of youth gangs drinking in Budapest
However, the government's data showed that at least in
workplace the problem of alcoholism was diminishing,
increasing. Surveys taken between 1985 and 1987 showed
drunkenness in the workplace dropped each year: from 9.1
in 1985, to 3.7 percent in 1986, and to 2.2 percent in
Nevertheless, alcohol, rather than controlled substances,
related to virtually all of the crimes committed under the
influence of any type of drug. In the first eight months
more than 18,500 crimes were committed under the influence
alcohol, while 37 crimes were committed under the
hard drugs (heroin and cocaine) and 84 under the influence
According to the Ministry of Interior, although hard
were shipped through Hungary, they did not appear to be a
problem for Hungarian society. In the late 1980s, Ministry
Interior statistics cited only forty-five to fifty
per year for narcotics violations. Nevertheless, the use
drugs did appear to be rising.
The use of drug substitutes or the abuse of
drugs, however, caused the government serious concern.
obtained opium-based and other drugs from hospitals,
and drug factories by stealing, by forging prescriptions,
buying drugs from staff looking for extra money. Glue
was also a problem, especially for children aged seven to
fifteen. In the late 1980s, the press admitted that the
possibly had 50,000 drug addicts but did not mention the
responsible for addiction.
Before 1984 the government had denied the existence of
problem, but since then the subject has received wide
discussion. In the late 1980s, laws against the use of
substances were flexible and gave judges the ability to
sentences according to the quantity of the drug involved
age of the seller. Those persons in possession of
amounts" could receive up to an eight-year prison term.
Data as of September 1989