Polish Penal Code
Kodeks Karny is the Polish
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 name for its criminal law code. This official name is often abbreviated to KK. There were three penal codes in the modern Polish legal history: the first in 1932, then during the communist
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

 era in 1969, and the last, and currently in force, in 1997. Since then it has been amended 49 times. Together with the Penal Procedure Code and the Fiscal Penal Code, the Penal Code make up the criminal justice system of Poland, often referred to as the penal law.

Situation after 1918

After World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 Poland regained its independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

. One of the most important tasks of the new government was to unify the law inherited from the three partitioners' different legal systems. Hence, after the war there were five different legal systems in Poland. These were those of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 in the West, of the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 in the South, of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 in the far East, of the former Congress Poland
Congress Poland
The Kingdom of Poland , informally known as Congress Poland , created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna, was a personal union of the Russian parcel of Poland with the Russian Empire...

 in the Center, and two tiny regions (Orava
Orava (region)
Orava is the traditional name of a region situated in northern Slovakia and partially also in southern Poland . It encompasses the territory of the former Árva county.-History:...

 and Spisz) in the South with the Hungarian
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 common law.

Codification Commission and the Code of 1932

In 1919 the first Codification Commission was created. It was divided into two sections; the first was to create a project of a penal code, the other - a civil code. The most prominent representative of the Penal Commission was professor Juliusz Makarewicz. Works finished in 1931, and the Code was enacted by the President's regulation
Regulation (law)
A regulation is a form of secondary legislation issued by a government minister under the authority of primary legislation. Regulations are used to make the detailed arrangements which give effect to the intent and purpose of primary legislation. Regulations are typically used to address matters of...

 on July 11, 1932. Often called the Code of Makarewicz, the Code of 1932 is perceived by the Polish jurisprudence to be an exquisite example of the modern penology. It consisted of 295 articles in 42 chapters. The first 92 articles constituted the general part of the Code, defining different terms, conditions, and penalties. The following 203 articles was a catalogue of felonies grouped in 26 chapters. Article 1 of the Code defined the penal responsibility, stating that a person is a subject to punishment only when its conduct constituted a criminal offence at the time when it took place. This fundamental rule of the modern criminal law made the Code a very up-to-date document. Professor Juliusz Bardach
Juliusz Bardach
Juliusz Bardach was a Polish legal historian. Professor of the University of Warsaw, member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He specialized in the history of governance and law of Lithuania and Poland....

 observed that the Codification Commission, having followed three basic concepts, was able to create a fair example of penal legislation. These were the rule of subjectivism, the rule of humanitarianism, and the introduction of preventive measures. Subjectivism meant that the penal responsibility depended upon the perpetrator's intent and anticipation. The rule of humanitarianism was expressed in a very deliberate sentencing. For instance, the capital punishment was foreseen for 5 crimes only, always with the alternative of incarceration. The introduction of preventive measures, criticized by many lawyers, meant that mentally ill people and recidivists could be separated from the society. In the late 1930s, when the Polish government became very authoritarian, these preventive measures were used against those who opposed the régime. This led to the creation of the Bereza Kartuska prison
Bereza Kartuska prison
The Bereza Kartuska detention camp was a Polish prison, principally for political prisoners of the sanacja regime, that was operated in 1934–39 at Bereza Kartuska in the former Polesie Province ....

, a very severe detention camp, also called a concentration camp.

World War II and its aftermath

On September 1, 1939 Poland was attacked by the Nazi army. On September 17, the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 invaded as well. Poland ceased to exist, and so did its penal law. The Nazi occupation was very harsh for the Polish society, and all its Jewish members were put into ghetto
A ghetto is a section of a city predominantly occupied by a group who live there, especially because of social, economic, or legal issues.The term was originally used in Venice to describe the area where Jews were compelled to live. The term now refers to an overcrowded urban area often associated...

es. Later, when Die Endlösung policy was carried out, any help to the Jewish people was scourged, by and large to death. In the time of war the rule of nullum crimen sine lege went for nothing. After the war
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Poland became a communist state, with a totalitarian régime. Although the new government upheld the Penal Code of 1932, it was not an obstacle for putting political enemies to jails. Special national security acts issued in the late 1940s and early 1950s, allowed communist judges to sentence many people to death without a fair trail. Many people went missing. After the thaw of 1956, often called the Polish October
Polish October
Polish October, also known as October 1956, Polish thaw, or Gomułka's thaw, marked a change in the Polish internal political scene in the second half of 1956...

, this situation began to change.

The Code of 1969

The codification of the civil law
Civil law (area)
Civil law in continental law is a branch of law which is the general part of private law.The basis for civil law lies in a civil code. Before enacting of codes, civil law could not be distinguished from private law...

 was much more important for the communist régime than codifying the Penal Code. After minor changes, the elastic Code of 1932 remained in force. Works on a new code began only after the communist régime ripened under Władysław Gomułka in the 1960s. Chaired by Jerzy Sawicki and Władysław Wolter, the Codification Commission put forward a project in 1963. However, it was refuted as too progressive. The next commission, moderated by prof. Andrejew, proposed a draft of the new code in 1968. Without much discussion, it was implemented the following year. Intended to protect the communist régime, the Code of 1969 was very repressive and inhibitory.

The abolition of communism and the works on a new Penal Code

In the late 1980s, when the régime was losing its powers, the Penal Law Reform Commission was formed. Its works sped up in 1989 when the communist régime collapsed and Tadeusz Mazowiecki
Tadeusz Mazowiecki
Tadeusz Mazowiecki is a Polish author, journalist, philanthropist and Christian-democratic politician, formerly one of the leaders of the Solidarity movement, and the first non-communist prime minister in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II.-Biography:Mazowiecki comes from a Polish...

 became the prime minister. The Commission, influenced by its two most prominent figures, prof. Kazimierz Buchała and prof. Andrzej Zoll
Andrzej Zoll
Andrzej Stanisław Zoll – Polish lawyer, former judge and president of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, former Polish Ombudsman, former president of the State Electoral Commission, former president of the Legislative Council, co-author of the Polish Penal Code of 1997...

, proposed a very liberal draft, which constituted an anathema to the code of 1969.


The Code is divided into three parts. Bearing the name general, the first part is a scaffolding for the whole code. It defines basic terms, types of sanctions and regulates all aspects of penal responsibility. It is composed of 15 chapters divided into 116 articles. The second part of the Code is a catalogue of crimes, including penalties foreseen for each of them. It is made up by 200 articles (Art. 117 to Art 316) gathered into 22 chapters (Chapter XVI to Chapter XXXVII). The third part defines crimes that can be committed by active soldiers only. It is composed of 46 articles grouped into 7 chapters.

Mitigation of Punishment

In his paper The Commutation of Penal Liability, Janusz Kochanowski
Janusz Kochanowski
Janusz Bogumił Kochanowski was a Polish lawyer, diplomat, and the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection of the Republic of Poland .-Life and career:...

 stated that the main characteristic of the new code was the commutation of penal liability on three different levels. In result, in comparison with the previous code, out of 314 types of crimes, in 131 cases the maximum imprisonment period was lowered, in 203 cases the minimum imprisonment period was lowered, in 50 cases both were lowered, and in 8 cases the capital punishment was repealed. For instance, the maximum punishment for espionage was lowered by 3 times, from 25 years to 8 years imprisonment, and the minimum punishment was lowered by 10 times, from 5 years to 6 months imprisonment.
First Degree Commutations
  • Lowering the minimum incarceration period from 3 to 1 month
  • Lowering the minimum restriction of freedom period from 3 to 1 month
  • Commuting the restriction of freedom punishment
  • Repealing the capital punishment and the sequestration of property
  • Repealing the compulsory deprivation of public rights
  • Limiting the catalogue of facultative deprivation of public rights
  • Repealing the compulsory ban on occupying specified posts and prohibition on exercising a profession
  • Limiting the possibility of making a sentence publicly known
  • Repealing compulsory fine imposition supplementary to incarceration
  • Repealing the possibility of fine imposition supplementary to 25 years and life imprisonment

Second Degree Commutations
  • Softening juvenile liability (13–17 years)
  • Softening adolescent liability (17–21 years)
  • Enabling extraordinary mitigation of punishment to an aider
  • Enabling extraordinary mitigation of punishment to a cooperator without individual features
  • Extending the use of the extraordinary mitigation of punishment
  • Extending the use of the renouncement of inflicting a punishment
  • Limiting the use of the extraordinary exacerbation of punishment
  • Extending the use of conditional discontinuance of penal proceedings
  • Extending the use of conditional stay of the carrying out of a sentence
  • Extending the use conditional release from serving the full sentence
  • Limiting the use of preventive measures
  • Shortening the period of prescription and erasion of the entry in the register of convictions

Third Degree Commutations
  • The directive of milder punishment or resigning from punishment
  • The rule of humanitarianism
  • The rule of limiting guilt

It can be a specific amount or an amount of day rates. The latter means that the court first decides how many day rates shall be paid (from 10 to 540), and then decides what the day rate of the offender is (from 10 to 2000 PLN). Depending on the offender's income, fines vary from 100 PLN to 1 080 000 PLN, if not exacerbated, mitigated or for concurring crimes.

Restriction of freedom
The main goal of this sanction was to introduce the community service punishment, but since offender's consent is needed, it is not often used. Restriction of freedom can last from 1 to 12 months. The convict cannot change their dwelling-place without a court's consent, is obliged to perform the imposed work (20 to 40 hours a month or 10 to 25% of earnings instead), and is obliged to inform proper institutions about carrying out the punishment.

The shortest imprisonment period is 1 month, the longest is 15 years. The conditional release from serving the full sentence is allowed after serving 2/3 of the full sentence.

25 years imprisonment
The code foresees this punishment to the most severe crimes. Also, since Article 54 Sec. 2, does not allow sentencing offenders younger than 18 years to life imprisonment, this is the highest possible punishment for them. The conditional release from serving the full sentence is allowed after 15 years.

Life imprisonment
This very oppressive punishment is reserved to the most severe crimes, such as commencing an offensive warfare (Art. 117), genocide (Art. 123), conspiracy against the state (Art. 127) or homicide (Art. 148). The conditional release from serving the full sentence is allowed after 25 years.


Three different types of homicide are foreseen by articles 148, 149 and 150 of the Code. Article 148 Sec. 1 describes the penalty for the basic type of the crime. It is penalized by no less than 8 years of imprisonment, 25 years imprisonment or life imprisonment. Sections 2 and 3 introduce a more strict sentencing in cases of particular cruelty, using guns or explosives, taking hostages, raping, robbery, multiple victims or relapse. In these cases the minimal imprisonment period rises to 25 years. On the other hand, Section 4 foresees a commuted penalty in case of a homicide under emotional strain. Such a reason allows the court to sentence between 1 and 10 years of imprisonment.

Articles 149 and 150 cover two very specific types of homicide. In both cases the penalty is fairly commuted. A homicide of a newborn by its mother is penalized with 3 months to 5 years imprisonment. Similarly, euthantic homicide is penalized with 3 months to 5 years imprisonment. In the latter case, in extraordinary conditions, the court may apply the extraordinary mitigation of punishment or even the renouncement of inflicting a punishment.

Future Developments

Due to the great number of amendments to the code, it has lost its original lucidity. Therefore, some Polish lawyers petition for a completely new codes, both penal and penal procedure, coherent with the most recent regulations of the EU.

Further reading

  • Gerhard O.W. Mueller, The Penal Code of the Polish Peoples Republic (American Series of Foreign Penal Codes), Fred B Rothman & Co, Littleton, CO 1973

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.