In April of this year, the guidelines developed for police officers reached the public, which stipulates exactly how large fines the police officers must impose for one or another traffic violation. In the opinion of the Police and Border Guard Board, which established the guidelines, the guidelines primarily serve the purpose of legal clarity. At the same time, the guide is also comprehensive - it even contains instructional words, with which the writing of fines should proceed even more purposefully.
Unfortunately, initially, the police officers have to memorize the instructional words according to the instructions or read them from paper, but in the future they could also be considered to be recorded on an information medium, from which even the most English-speaking officer could present them with one push of a button. In cooperation with, for example, a political party, the guide could even be made into a memorable piece of music. From the point of view of the Police and Border Guard Board, it is difficult to find arguments why there should be silence on the car radio of an operational vehicle during the writing of a fine. Apparently, fine writing is no more than mechanical work, and as you know, the latter goes much more smoothly with the accompaniment of the song.
There is not a single second to be wasted in filling the state treasury, because the lack of rank-and-file police officers caused by the current situation has not satisfied anyone for a long time. However, more fines would mean more money, which in turn would allow more police officers to be appointed, who could then write even more fines. Reaching such a noble result cannot be easy, but it seems that a solution has been found by now - the discretion of police officers in imposing fines must be reduced to zero. The charm lies in the simplicity. If such simplicity is also legally correct, then what is the question. Unfortunately, it must be stated that the pricing of traffic violations by the Police and Border Guard Board is anything but legally correct.
Most traffic violations are indeed misdemeanors, which are handled out of court by the Police and Border Guard Board. The observant reader also noticed a slight sarcasm above, but to avoid ambiguity - writing fines in reality means more than mechanical work in any case. Imposing fines by the police means out-of-court processing of misdemeanors, more specifically, out-of-court settlement of misdemeanors. However, solving misdemeanors out of court is justice in the most literal sense. Officials whose task is to make decisions binding on persons in misdemeanor cases essentially play the role of a judge when performing this task.
Thus, such officials must be impartial, correctly use the right of discretion given to them by law and interpret the doubts that have not been eliminated in misdemeanor proceedings in favor of the person subject to the proceedings, take into account all important circumstances when resolving the case, etc. The list could be continued, but it can be succinctly reduced to one of the foundations of the rule of law - every public official, including the extrajudicial settler of a misdemeanor, must fully comply with the law in his activities. Only the law also stipulates the limits within which the punishment for one or another violation must remain. It is a criminal policy decision of nationwide importance, the competence to make it lies with the National Assembly, not the Police and Border Guard Board.
Requiring the non-judicial investigator of a misdemeanor to comply with the instruction in question means that the discretion granted to the extra-judicial investigator by law is limited by legislation that is significantly subordinate to the law. In addition to the fact that there is no authorization norm in the current law for the introduction of an act with such content, the direct effects of the act in question cannot be overlooked.
According to the established guidelines, the application of several legal norms that are reasonable in every way and characterize the rule of law is actually excluded. Thus, in the context of the traffic violations mentioned in the manual, the warning procedure specifically prescribed by the legislator for the processing of minor violations loses all meaning. To put it figuratively - what if the speed limiter was set to the permitted speed and the road was steeply sloping - 1 km/h over the permitted means a fine of at least 40 euros, and all sorts of reasons and excuses can be addressed to the court.
In relation to the courts, one cannot fail to note that the penalty rates stipulated in the guidelines are largely inconsistent with the sentencing principles adopted in judicial practice. According to the position developed in judicial practice, the average level of the sanction must be taken as the starting point when sentencing, which must then be adjusted based on the degree of guilt of the particular violator and general and special preventive considerations. According to the established guidelines, on the other hand, in the case of some violations, the out-of-court procedure must take as a starting point when sentencing, a penalty rate that significantly exceeds the average penalty rate, and there is no question of carrying out general and special preventive considerations.Teisisõnu – tehaksegi trahv, mis on kohtupraktikaga vastuolus, ning vastuolu kõrvaldamiseks viidatakse stoilise rahuga jällegi võimalusele pöörduda kohtusse. Tõsi, teoorias on kohtusse pöördumise võimalus tõesti olemas. Praktikas eeldab kohtutee pahatihti aga ressursse, mis ei pruugi olla käepärast ka majanduslikult paremal järjel olevatel isikutel.
From the point of view of a practicing lawyer, the new magic wand of the Police and Border Protection Agency is undoubtedly welcome - more injustice means more work. However, from the point of view of a law-abiding citizen, finding good words is difficult, if not impossible. The criminal registry is forcibly becoming a national dating portal, in which every Estonian must have a user account. However, since having a user account in the criminal record is paid, it is no wonder why meeting a police patrolman who publicly admits to being in financial trouble causes fear, not a sense of security. Besides, the rest of the society has been focusing on proactive measures instead of reactive measures when implementing changes for a long time - the police swim against the current with a straight back. Anyone who can be punished can be punished. Punishers who have not punished others severely enough can also be punished. The fine state is perfect after all.
The opinion piece was published in the opinion section of the Postimees newspaper on May 14, 2014.