As someone who is not familiar with Polish laws, you may be surprised by some of the unexpected laws that can come up. Whether you’re changing your name, selling a large apartment, or even exhuming a corpse, you may encounter some strange and seemingly absurd regulations laid out in legal paragraphs.
By the way, if you are interested in law, you may want to read the other article about the Law Gun in Poland. You will learn that there are dozen different types of gun permits in Poland.
Two Apartments for the Price of One in Poland
Laws governing real estate development frequently encounter legal anomalies. For example, under Polish VAT law, apartments larger than 150 square meters are taxed at a rate of 23 percent, while smaller units are subject to a lower, preferential VAT rate of 8 percent. As a result, developers often resort to the common practice of selling „combined apartments” which consist of two separate 80 sqm units that can be merged after purchase.
Drivers who have been fined by speed cameras are all too familiar with the fact that taxation is not the only area where unusual rules apply.
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If you find yourself in such a situation as a vehicle owner, you have the option of either admitting that you were driving the vehicle at the time of the offense and accepting the fine along with penalty points, or accepting the same fine without any points for failing to identify the driver. The choice may seem simple.
However, even if you choose not to identify the driver and the case goes to court to determine who committed the offense, you can still choose to defend yourself and refuse to reveal the driver’s identity. The end result is that the vehicle owner will be fined, but most importantly, he will not receive any points.
Changing the Odometer in a Car in Poland
Manipulating a car’s odometer to increase its resale value is a common tactic on the secondary market. This is a scam. However, companies that roll back odometers and openly admit to doing so are not committing a crime because this activity is not punishable by law.
The only crime associated with odometer tampering is profiting from the reduced mileage by selling a car with the odometer rolled back while concealing that fact. Therefore, repair shop operators can argue that they were unaware of the car owner’s intent to reverse the odometer when asked to do so.
Jail Time for Milk
In 2014, a customer in one of the Warsaw shops was charged with fraud, which can carry a prison sentence of up to eight years (or up to two years for minor fraud). What led to this charge? The customer tried to defraud the store by changing the price tags on milk, putting a cheaper price tag on the more expensive product he had chosen.
The absurdity of this situation is that if the customer had simply stolen the milk, he would have faced a much lighter sentence under the law – typically a month in jail, a fine, or community service.
Mustard and VAT Law
You may be surprised to learn that Polish tax law makes a distinction between mustard sauce and mustard. While mustard sauce, like mayonnaise, horseradish, and ketchup, is subject to a VAT rate of 8%, ordinary mustard is subject to a higher VAT rate of 23%. Why? Who knows..
Civil Law Covers Curious Matter of Bees
When we think about civil law, the first things that come to mind are inheritance, alimony, ownership, and contracts. But there’s something else that the Civil Code regulates that might surprise you: bees! Article 182 of the Civil Code deals with a swarm of bees that have flown away from their original hive. If the swarm settles in a foreign hive, it becomes the property of the owner of that hive by operation of law.
However, if the original owner is actively searching for their swarm of bees, they have the right to enter someone else’s land in pursuit. Of course, any damage caused by the pursuit must be repaired by the owner. This legal curiosity highlights the unexpected range of topics that can be covered by the Civil Code.
Loss of Driver’s License for Operating a Motor Vehicle on Water
At first glance, land and water seem to have nothing in common, especially in terms of legislation. However, this is far from the truth. According to the polish law, operating a motor vehicle on water, such as a pontoon, boat, motorboat, or jet ski with an internal combustion engine, can result in a fine or even the loss of your license.
Similar to cars, motorcycles, and other wheeled vehicles, boaters can lose their license if caught drinking and boating. This provision is unusual in that a Class B driver’s license is not required for boating, but a special license is required to operate a vessel with an internal combustion engine.
A Public-Private Road Intersection is not an Intersection in Poland
Imagine you are driving in the city at 50 km/h, then you see a speed limit sign indicating a limit of 30 km/h, so you slow down accordingly. After passing an intersection with a private road, you return to 50 km/h, thinking that the intersection removed the speed limit.
However, if a policeman catches you, you could receive a fine of 100 zlotys and 2 penalty points for exceeding the speed limit by 20 km/h. This may come as a surprise to many drivers, but according to the law, the intersection of a public road and an internal road (private) is not considered an intersection, so the speed limit remains in place.
Adding to the confusion, D-46 („internal road”) signs are less visible than the vertical markings of the road. This can cause problems not only with speed limits, but also with parking or stopping restrictions. It is essential to be vigilant and pay attention to what the public road crosses.
Criminal Liability for 15-Year-Olds in Some Cases
Typically, according to the Criminal Code, only individuals aged 17 or older are subject to criminal liability. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Under strict circumstances outlined in Article 10 § 2 of the Criminal Code, a minor who is 15 years of age or older may be held liable for crimes on the same terms as an adult.
The specific cases in which this exception applies include serious offenses such as attempted assassination of the President of the Republic of Poland, intentional homicide, causing serious bodily harm of a basic or qualified type, causing a communication catastrophe of a basic or qualified type, assaulting a public official resulting in serious injury, basic or advanced hostage taking, or robbery.
In such cases, the 15-year-old would be subject to criminal proceedings and could potentially be sentenced to prison instead of juvenile detention. However, it is important to note that the offender must still take responsibility for their actions in a penitential manner. This exception highlights the gravity of certain offenses and the severity of their consequences, even for minors.
The Law for Pedestrians to Wear Reflective Elements in Poland
Although the idea of requiring pedestrians to wear reflective elements when walking on a road outside a built-up area after dusk seems reasonable, it has some inaccuracies upon closer examination.
According to Article 11 of the Traffic Law, pedestrians walking on a road outside a built-up area after dusk are required to wear reflective elements that are visible to other road users, unless they are walking on a sidewalk. People riding a bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, or stroller on the side of the road are also required to wear reflectors. Failure to wear a reflector can result in a fine of up to PLN 500.
The problem is that the law does not specify the type of reflector required. It could be a vest, a bracelet or even a small key ring. In addition, the exact location of the reflector is not specified. For example, a pedestrian with a small reflector on the side of the road is much less likely to be noticed by a driver than a pedestrian with reflectors in front, behind, or on both sides.
Loss of License for Driving With Contact Lenses
It may sound strange, but it’s true that a driver can face a fine of 500 zlotys or even the revocation of their license if they are caught driving with contact lenses instead of glasses, despite their driver’s license indicating that they should be wearing glasses. This is because police officers can stop a driver with a significant visual impairment from driving if they don’t adhere to the restrictions on their license, which are indicated by numerical codes on the back of the document.
In the case of visual impairment, these codes include 01.01 for glasses, 01.02 for contact lenses, 01.03 for safety glasses, 01.04 for frosted glass, 01.05 for an eye patch, and 01.06 for glasses or contact lenses. We believe that there should be no such distinction between eyeglasses and contact lenses because many people switch from glasses to lenses after a while, and it’s quite difficult to understand why this should be a problem.
Strange Fine for Not Keeping Both Hands on the Wheel in Poland
A fine of 500 zloty for not keeping both hands on the steering wheel of your car? That’s no joke. If you don’t keep your hands on the wheel, you can get a hefty fine from a police officer. The police have been lobbying for changes in the law, which are now taking effect. A new whip for drivers is being prepared. This is just one of the new regulations that will come into effect on November 7, 2019. In addition, the authority of police officers will increase in Poland.