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On the duty to provide information about a person to whom a vehicle was entrusted

Case No. 8/2010-132/2010

 THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

IN THE NAME OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

RULING

ON THE COMPLIANCE OF PARAGRAPH 2 OF ARTICLE 20 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON ROAD TRAFFIC SAFETY (WORDING OF 22 NOVEMBER 2007) AND PARAGRAPH 2 OF ARTICLE 276 OF THE CODE OF ADMINISTRATIVE VIOLATIONS OF LAW OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 12 April 2013

Vilnius

 

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court Egidijus Bieliūnas, Toma Birmontienė, Pranas Kuconis, Gediminas Mesonis, Ramutė Ruškytė, Egidijus Šileikis, Algirdas Taminskas, Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis, and Dainius Žalimas,

with the secretary—Daiva Pitrėnaitė,

pursuant to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1 and 531 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, on 29 March 2013, at the Court’s sitting considered under written procedure constitutional justice case No. 8/2010-132/2010 subsequent to the petitions (Nos. 1B-8/2010, 1B-145/2010) of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requesting to investigate Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Road Traffic Safety (wording of 22 November 2007) and Paragraph 2 of Article 276 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the Republic of Lithuania, insofar as there are no privileges that permit a person not to testify against his family members or close relatives, are not in conflict with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

By the Constitutional Court’s decision of 15 March 2013, the said petitioner’s petitions were joined into one case, and it was given reference No. 8/2010-132/2010.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

The petitions of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, are substantiated by the following arguments.

Under Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety (wording of 22 November 2007) (hereinafter also referred to as the Law), upon the request of a police official for the purpose of determining a violation of law, the owner (holder) of the vehicle must provide that official with the information about a person (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the (holder) owner of the vehicle; for non-compliance with that obligation the owner (holder) of the vehicle is held liable in accordance with the procedure provided for in the Code of Administrative Violations of Law (hereinafter also referred to as the CAVL); administrative liability does not apply to the owner (holder) of the vehicle where the owner (holder) has lost his vehicle against his will. In the petitioner’s opinion, in a case of an administrative violation of law, an owner (holder) of the vehicle must be assessed as a witness, and his explanations—as explanations (testimony) of a witness, regardless of whether he has such a status in the proceedings and whether he was warned of liability when he was providing his explanations.

Although Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution contains the prohibition against compelling a person to give evidence against himself, his family members or close relatives, Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law does not provide that for non-compliance with the obligation established therein the owner (holder) of the vehicle does not incur administrative liability in the cases where he refuses to provide a police official with the information about his family member or close relative who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle. Paragraph 2 of Article 276 of the CAVL, which prescribes that upon the summons of a certain body (official) considering the case, a witness must appear at an indicated time, give true evidence, inform about everything known to him in the case, and answer the questions put to him, similarly does not provide for any possibility for one to refuse to give evidence against his family members or close relatives.

The prohibition against compelling one to give evidence against himself, his family members or close relatives, which is consolidated in Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution, should not be linked only to the giving of evidence in criminal cases. According to the petitioner (petition No. 1B-145/2010), in accordance with the practice of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, in the course of considering cases of administrative violations of law one must follow the same principles as in criminal proceedings.

II

In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court’s hearing, written explanations were received from the representative of the Seimas, the party concerned, who was Julius Sabatauskas, the Chairman of the Seimas Committee on Legal Affairs, wherein it is maintained that the impugned legal regulation is not in conflict with the Constitution. The position of the representative of the party concerned is substantiated by the following arguments.

Since the establishment of the obligation for the owner (holder) of the vehicle to provide a police official, for the purpose of determining a violation of law, with the information about a person (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle, as well as the establishment of liability for non-compliance with that obligation, the investigation of administrative violations of law has become more efficient, and the possibility for the persons who have committed a violation to escape liability has decreased.

In the opinion of the representative of the party concerned, the legal status of the owner (holder) of a vehicle may not be equated with the legal status of a witness in a case of an administrative violation of law committed by another person, since the contents of the rights of the persons in question are different.

The owner (holder) of the vehicle is under the obligation to provide, for the purpose of determining a violation of law, the information about another person, the amount and character of which is concretely specified in the impugned Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law; in this way, the legislator has ensured that no one is compelled to provide more or another type of information about another person, and that this information is not used for the purposes other than determining a violation of law.

Article 276 of the CAVL establishes the obligation of a witness in a case of an administrative violation of law committed by another person to give true evidence, rather than the obligation to give evidence against or in favour of the person concerned or the obligation to assess the meaning of this evidence; an official is given the discretion to obtain from a witness the information that is essential for the consideration of the case, rather than to compel a witness to accuse another person of committing an administrative violation of law.

According to the representative of the party concerned, the obligation to “provide <...> with the information about a person” (formulation used in Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law) and the obligation to “give true evidence” (formulation used in Paragraph 2 of Article 276 of the CAVL) may not be assessed as the compulsion to give evidence against oneself, one’s own family members or close relatives, therefore, compliance with the said obligations may not be assessed as a violation of the prohibition established in Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

  1. It has been mentioned that the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requests investigation into the compliance inter alia of Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, insofar as it does not establish any privilege that permits a person not to testify against his family members or close relatives, with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.
  2. Paragraph 2 of Article 20 “General Requirements for Owners and Holders of Vehicles” of the Law prescribed:

“Upon the request of a police official for the purpose of determining a violation of law, the owner (holder) of the vehicle must provide that official with the information about a person (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle. Having not provided the information indicated in this Paragraph, the owner (holder) of the vehicle shall be held liable for non-compliance with the obligations of an owner (holder) of a vehicle in accordance with the procedure provided for in the Code of Administrative Violations of Law. Liability for non-compliance with the obligations shall not apply to an owner (holder) of a vehicle where the owner (holder) has lost his vehicle against his will.”

Thus, Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law established the obligation of the owner (holder) of the vehicle to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with the information about a person who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle; having not complied with the said obligation, the owner (holder) of the vehicle is held liable in accordance with the procedure provided for in the CAVL, save the cases where he is not able to provide the required information because he has lost the vehicle against his will.

  1. It needs to be noted that, although the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requests to investigate whether inter alia Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, insofar as it does not establish any privilege that permits a person not to testify against his family members or close relatives, is not in conflict with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution, from the arguments in the petitions and the material of the case it is clear that the petitioner has doubts as regards the compliance of Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law with the Constitution, insofar as the said paragraph does not provide for the right of the owner (holder) of the vehicle not to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with the information about his family member (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner of the vehicle.
  2. It needs to be noted that, on 14 December 2010, the Seimas adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law Amending Article 20 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety, which came into force on 1 March 2011, and through which the legislator amended the title and Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, however, the legal regulation established therein, in the aspect impugned by the petitioner, was not changed.
  3. Thus, subsequent to the petitions of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, the Constitutional Court will investigate whether Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, insofar as it does not provide for the right of the owner (holder) of the vehicle not to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with the information about his family member (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle, was not in conflict with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.

II

On the compliance of Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety (wording of 22 November 2007) with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.

  1. It has been mentioned that in the constitutional justice case at issue the Constitutional Court is investigating the compliance of Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, insofar as it does not provide for the right of the owner (holder) of the vehicle not to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with the information about his family member (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle, with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.
  2. The petitioner’s doubts as regards the compliance of Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law with the Constitution are substantiated by the fact that, although Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution consolidates the prohibition against compelling a person to give evidence against himself, his family members or close relatives, Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law does not provide that for non-compliance with the obligation established therein the owner (holder) of the vehicle does not incur administrative liability in the cases where he refuses to provide a police official with the information about his family member or close relative who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle.
  3. It has been mentioned that Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, which is impugned by the petitioner, establishes the obligation of the owner (holder) of the vehicle to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with the information about a person who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle; having not complied with the said obligation, the owner (holder) of the vehicle is held liable in accordance with the procedure provided for in the CAVL, save the cases where he is not able to provide the required information because he has lost the vehicle against his will.

In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue it needs to be noted that, under the legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, the owner (holder) of the vehicle incurs administrative liability also in the case where he refuses to provide the information about his family member who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle.

  1. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue the following legal regulation, as established in the Law, is also relevant:

– the Law establishes inter alia the legal bases for road traffic safety in the Republic of Lithuania, the main rights and obligations of traffic participants, police officials and other officials conducting supervision, also the traffic safety requirements for roads, with a view to safeguarding the lives, health, and property of traffic participants and other persons and improving the traffic conditions for transport and pedestrians (Paragraph 1 of Article 1);

– traffic safety means the whole of the road traffic peculiarities that indicate the extent to which traffic participants are protected against accidents and their consequences (Paragraph 15 of Article 2);

– one of the principles of ensuring traffic safety is assessing the interests of a person, society, and the state as well as reconciling them so that safe traffic is ensured (Item 3 of Article 4).

Thus, from the established legal regulation it is clear that the Law is aimed inter alia at ensuring traffic safety.

  1. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue the legal regulation established in Paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of Article 6.270 “Liability for Damage Caused Through the Use of Sources of Potential Hazards” of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter also referred to as the CC) is also relevant:

“1. A person whose activities are connected with potential hazards for surrounding persons (operation of vehicles, machinery, use of electric or atomic energy, explosive or poisonous materials, activities in the area of construction, etc.) shall be liable to compensation for damage caused as a result of the operation or use of the sources of potential hazards, unless he proves that the damage occurred due to force majeure or due to the victim’s intent or gross negligence.

  1. Under this Article, in the cases established in the preceding Paragraph a defendant shall be considered to be a holder of a source of potential hazards where he is in possession of this source by right of ownership or trust, or on any other legitimate grounds (loan for use, lease, or any other contract, the power of attorney, etc.).
  2. A holder of a source of potential hazards shall not be liable to compensation for the damage caused if he proves to have lost the ability to possess that source as a result of the unlawful actions of other persons. <...>”

Thus, according to the established legal regulation, a vehicle is a source of potential hazards, i.e. it poses a potential hazard to surrounding persons; a holder of a vehicle is liable for damage caused through the use of a vehicle in his possession save in the cases where the damage occurred due to force majeure or due to the victim’s intent or gross negligence, as well as where a holder of a vehicle is found to have lost the ability to operate the vehicle as a result of the unlawful actions of other persons.

  1. While construing the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law in conjunction with the legal regulation established in Paragraph 1 of Article 1, Paragraph 15 of Article 2, and Item 3 of Article 4 of the Law and Paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of Article 6.270 of the CC, one needs to hold that the obligation of the owner (holder) of the vehicle to provide a police official with the information about a person (name, surname, the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle has been established in order to ensure safe traffic, to safeguard traffic participants against accidents and ensuing harmful consequences, as well as to create legal preconditions for bringing to liability persons who have violated the traffic rules.
  2. It has been mentioned that persons who have not complied with the obligation established in Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law are held liable in accordance with the procedure provided for in the CAVL.

Article 1331 “Non-compliance by an Owner (Holder) of a Vehicle with the Requirements Established in the Law on Road Traffic Safety” (wording of 3 July 2007) of the CAVL prescribed that for non-compliance with the obligations of an owner (holder) of a vehicle established in the Law a natural person or the head of an enterprise, establishment, organisation, or a subsidiary thereof incurs a fine from LTL 300 to 500 (Paragraph 1); the same deed committed by a person who was previously punished with an administrative penalty for the violation specified in Paragraph 1 of this article incurs a fine from LTL 1,500 to 2,000 (Paragraph 2).

While construing the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law in conjunction with the legal regulation established in Article 1331 of the CAVL, one needs to hold that the owner (holder) of the vehicle for non-compliance with the obligation to provide a police official with the information about a person (name, surname, the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle incurs administrative liability to a fine from LTL 300 to 500, whereas if a person was previously subject to an administrative penalty for the said violation, he incurs a fine from LTL 1,500 to 2,000.

  1. It has been mentioned that in the constitutional justice case at issue the Constitutional Court is investigating the compliance of Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, insofar as it does not provide for the right of the owner (holder) of the vehicle not to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with the information about his family member (name, surname, the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle, with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.
  2. Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution prescribes: “It shall be prohibited to compel one to give evidence against himself, his family members or close relatives.”

9.1. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue it needs to be noted that the norms of Article 31 of the Constitution are designed to ensure the implementation of the principles of justice in criminal proceedings (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 10 February 2000); however, if certain sanctions established in laws by their size (strictness) amount to criminal punishments, no matter to which type of legal liability (criminal, administrative, disciplinary, or other legal liability) these sanctions are attributed, and no matter how the respective sanctions are named in laws, the laws must necessarily establish with respect to persons held legally liable under the corresponding laws such procedural guarantees that stem from the Constitution, inter alia Article 31 thereof; the requirements stemming from the norms and principles of the Constitution for the consideration of criminal cases in court are mutatis mutandis also applicable in considering the cases of administrative violations of law in court (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 28 May 2008).

9.2. The Constitutional Court, when construing the guarantee consolidated in Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution, held that the provision of the Constitution in question is, in substance, related to the peculiarities and legal situation of a natural person as a subject of legal relations (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 8 June 2009).

The guarantee consolidated in Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution means that a natural person may refuse to give evidence on the basis of which this person himself, his family member or close relative could be brought to criminal liability, as well as to another type of legal liability, if a possible sanction by its nature and size (strictness) amounted to a criminal punishment. The legal regulation established in Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution may not, however, be construed as meaning that a natural person may not voluntarily (i.e. without anybody compelling him) give evidence against himself, his family members or close relatives (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 8 June 2009).

  1. In the context of the case at issue the constitutional guarantee consolidated in Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution should be construed together with the provisions of Article 23 of the Constitution.

10.1. While construing the provisions of Article 23 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court held that the right of ownership is one of the fundamental human rights; its implementation implies certain obligations of the owner; ownership includes obligations; through this provision the social function of ownership is expressed (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 December 2000). The owner who has the right to possess, use, and dispose of his property may not violate any laws and any rights of other persons (inter alia the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 19 September 2002); the obligations of the owner are determined inter alia by the specificity of the objects of ownership, thus, the legislator may, taking account of the peculiarities of the objects of ownership, establish for the owners of these objects certain obligations as well as liability for non-compliance with the said obligations.

10.2. While construing Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution in conjunction with Article 23, one should note that a human being, enjoying the guarantee consolidated in Paragraph 3 of Article 31, is not allowed inter alia not to comply with the duties established by law for him as the owner of an object of ownership.

  1. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue it needs to be noted that the construction of Article 6 (the right to a fair trial) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter referred to as the Convention) is relevant to the case at issue. The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as the ECtHR), as a source of construction of law, is also important for the construction and application of Lithuanian law (inter alia the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 6 December 2012).

11.1. While construing Article 6 of the Convention, the ECtHR has noted on more than one occasion that, although not specifically mentioned in Article 6 of the Convention, there can be no doubt that the right to remain silent under police questioning and the privilege against self-incrimination are the generally recognised international standards within the area of the regulation of the right to a fair procedure. By providing the accused with protection against improper compulsion by the authorities these immunities contribute to avoiding miscarriages of justice and to securing the aims of Article 6 of the Convention (the judgment of 8 February 1996 in the case of John Murray v. the United Kingdom (petition No. 18731/91). The ECtHR has also held that the right to remain silent and the privilege against self-incrimination are not absolute (the judgment of 8 July 2004 in the case of Weh v. Austria (petition No. 38544/98); it does not follow that any direct compulsion will automatically result in a violation; although the right to a fair trial under Article 6 is an unqualified right, what constitutes a fair trial cannot be the subject of a single unvarying rule but must depend on the circumstances of the particular case. In order to determine whether the essence of the right to remain silent and privilege against self-incrimination was infringed, a court must take into account the nature and degree of compulsion used to obtain the evidence, the existence of any relevant safeguards in the procedure, and the use to which any material so obtained was put (the judgment of 29 June 2007 in the case of O’Halloran and Francis v. the United Kingdom (petition Nos. 15809/02 and 25624/02). The ECtHR has also noted that the obligation to inform the authorities is a common feature of the Contracting States’ legal orders and that it may concern a wide range of issues (e.g., the obligation to reveal one’s identity to the police in certain situations) (the judgment of 8 July 2004 in the case of Weh v. Austria (petition No. 38544/98)).

11.2. The ECtHR, when considering the cases concerning the liability of owners (holders) of vehicles for non-compliance or improper compliance with the obligation to indicate the identity of the driver, held that an impending sanction for refusal to disclose the identity of the driver or an inaccurate disclosure of the information does not violate the right to remain silent (Article 6 of the Convention) (the judgment of 8 July 2004 in the case of Weh v. Austria (petition No. 38544/98); the judgment of 29 June 2007 in the case of O’Halloran and Francis v. the United Kingdom (petition Nos. 15809/02 and 25624/02)). It is merely the obligation of a person who is the registered car owner to give information as to who was driving the car; a simple fact—namely who was the driver of the car—is not in itself incriminating (the judgment of 8 July 2004 in the case of Weh v. Austria (petition No. 38544/98)).

  1. It has been mentioned that in the constitutional justice case at issue the Constitutional Court is investigating the compliance of Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, insofar as it does not provide for the right of the owner (holder) of the vehicle not to provide a police official with the information about his family member (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle, with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.
  2. While deciding whether Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, to the specified extent, was not in conflict with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution, one needs to note that, as mentioned before, the impugned Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law establishes the obligation of the owner (holder) of the vehicle to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with certain information about a person, inter alia a family member, who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle; in the event of non-compliance with the said obligation the owner (holder) of the vehicle is held administratively liable.

It has also been mentioned that the aforesaid obligation of the owner (holder) of the vehicle has been established while seeking to ensure safe traffic, to safeguard traffic participants against accidents and ensuing harmful consequences, and to create legal preconditions for bringing to liability persons who have violated the traffic rules.

  1. It needs to be noted that, as mentioned before, ownership includes obligations. A vehicle poses a potential hazard to surrounding persons; therefore, its owner (holder), who has the right to possess, use, and dispose of his vehicle, may not violate any laws and any rights of other persons. Thus, the legislator, in regulating the relations of the ownership of vehicles and road traffic safety, may, while taking account of the specificity of vehicles as objects of ownership, lay down certain obligations of their owners (holders) as well as to provide for liability for non-compliance with them.
  2. It has been held in this Constitutional Court’s ruling that a human being, enjoying the guarantee consolidated in Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution, is not allowed inter alia not to comply with the obligations established by law for him as an owner of an object of ownership. Thus, the said guarantee may not be construed so that, based on it, the owner (holder) of the vehicle could not comply with the obligations related to the vehicle belonging to him, inter alia could refuse to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with the information about a person who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle. In addition, the mere provision of a police official with such information is not, in itself, the submission of evidence against a certain person, inter alia a member of one’s family.
  3. Thus, there is no ground to maintain that the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, which establishes the obligation of the owner (holder) of the vehicle to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with certain information about a family member who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle, non-compliance with which incurs administrative liability, was in violation with the prohibition, established in Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution, against compelling a person to give evidence against his family members.
  4. Taking account of the arguments set forth, one is to draw the conclusion that Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, insofar as it does not provide for the right of the owner (holder) of the vehicle not to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, with certain information about his family member (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle, was not in conflict with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.

III

On the compliance of Paragraph 2 of Article 276 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.

  1. The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requests investigation into the compliance inter alia of Paragraph 2 of Article 276 of the CAVL, insofar as it does not establish any privilege that permits a person not to testify against his family members or close relatives, with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.

As mentioned before, in the petitioner’s opinion, in a case of an administrative violation of law, the owner (holder) of a vehicle must be assessed as a witness, and his explanations—as explanations (testimony) of a witness, regardless of whether he has such a status in the proceedings and whether he was given a warning of liability when he was providing his explanations.

  1. Article 276 “A Witness” of the CAVL prescribed:

“In a case of an administrative violation of law any person who may have knowledge of any circumstances that need to be established in that case may be called as a witness.

Upon the summons of an official considering the case, a witness must appear at the indicated time and must give true evidence; he must inform about everything that is known to him in the case and answer the questions he is being asked.”

Thus, Article 276 of the CAVL establishes the obligation of a witness to give evidence; the article does not provide for any privileges when a witness would be allowed not to give any evidence.

  1. Under Article 1872 “Submission of False Evidence in a Case of an Administrative Violation” (wording of 19 September 2000) of the CAVL, the submission of false evidence, evasion or refusal to give evidence incurs a fine from LTL 1,000 to 3,000.

When construing the legal regulation established in Article 276 of the CAVL in conjunction with that established in Article 1872 of the CAVL, one needs to hold that a witness incurs administrative liability in the event of a violation of the obligation to give evidence.

  1. It needs to be noted that the petitioner was considering the administrative cases in which the owners (holders) of the vehicles were brought, under Paragraph 1 of Article 1331 “Non-compliance by an Owner (Holder) of a Vehicle with the Requirements Established in the Law on Road Traffic Safety” (wording of 3 July 2007) of the CAVL, to administrative liability for refusing to provide police officials with the information about the persons (name, surname, and the place of residence) who had been in possession of or had been using the vehicles that belonged to the owners (holders) of the vehicles at the time when, through the use of those vehicles, administrative violations provided for in Article 124 “Exceeding Speed Limits” (wording of 13 December 2007) of the CAVL had been committed.

Thus, in the said administrative cases the owners (holders) of the vehicles incurred, under Paragraph 1 of Article 1331 (wording of 3 July 2007) of the CAVL, administrative liability for non-compliance with the obligation—to provide, for the purpose of determining a violation, a police official with the information about the person (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle—established in Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Law, but not for non-compliance with the obligation of a witness to give evidence, as established under Article 1872 of the CAVL.

  1. While taking account of the fact that the administrative cases considered by the petitioner concerned non-compliance with the obligation of the owner (holder) of the vehicle to provide, for the purpose of determining a violation of law, a police official with the information about a person who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle, rather than non-compliance with the obligation of a witness to give evidence, the petitioner has no ground to apply with respect to the owners (holders) concerned the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 of Article 276 of the CAVL.

Consequently, the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, adopted in the aforementioned administrative cases the rulings to suspend the consideration of the cases and apply to the Constitutional Court regarding inter alia Paragraph 2 of Article 276 of the CAVL, which in the said administrative cases considered by the petitioner must not be applied to the owners (holders) of the vehicles.

  1. Under the Constitution and the Law on the Constitutional Court, no court has locus standi to apply to the Constitutional Court with a petition requesting to investigate whether a law (part thereof) or another legal act (part thereof) that should not (could not) be applied in the case considered by the said court is not in conflict with the Constitution (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 22 May 2007 and 5 July 2007).

Under Item 1 of Paragraph 1 of Article 69 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, by its decision, the Constitutional Court refuses to consider petitions to investigate the compliance of a legal act with the Constitution if the petition was filed by an institution or a person who does not have the right to apply to the Constitutional Court, and, under Paragraph 3 of Article 69 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, if the grounds for refusal to consider a petition have been established after the commencement of the investigation of the case during the hearing of the Constitutional Court, a decision to dismiss the case is adopted.

  1. Taking account of the arguments set forth, the part of the constitutional justice case subsequent to the petitions of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requesting to investigate the compliance of Paragraph 2 of Article 276 of the CAVL, insofar as it does not establish any privilege that permits a person not to testify against his family members or close relatives, with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution, should be dismissed.

Conforming to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1, 53, 531, 54, 55, and 56 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania has passed the following

ruling:

  1. To recognise that Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Road Traffic Safety (wording of 22 November 2007; Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2007, No. 128-5213), insofar as it does not establish the right of the owner (holder) of the vehicle not to provide a police official, who is seeking to determine a violation of law, the information about his family member (name, surname, and the place of residence) who at a certain time was in possession of or was using the vehicle that belongs to the owner (holder) of the vehicle, was not in conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.
  2. To dismiss the part of the case subsequent to the petitions of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requesting to investigate the compliance of Paragraph 2 of Article 276 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the Republic of Lithuania (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1985, No. 1-1), insofar as it does not establish any privilege that permits a person not to testify against his family members or close relatives, with Paragraph 3 of Article 31 of the Constitution.

This ruling of the Constitutional Court is final and not subject to appeal.

Justices of the Constitutional Court:                                     Egidijus Bieliūnas

                                                                                                         Toma Birmontienė

                                                                                                         Pranas Kuconis

                                                                                                         Gediminas Mesonis

                                                                                                         Ramutė Ruškytė

                                                                                                         Egidijus Šileikis

                                                                                                         Algirdas Taminskas

                                                                                                         Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis

                                                                                                         Dainius Žalimas