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Legal Matters

Carry your passport or a copy of your passport with you at all times, as police will occasionally do checks. If you are arrested, the police must inform you of your rights in a language that you understand.

In Austria, legal offences are divided into two categories: Gerichtsdelikt (criminal) and Verwaltungsübertretung (administrative). If you are suspected of having committed a criminal offence (such as assault or theft) you can be detained for a maximum of 48 hours before you are committed for trial. If you are arrested for a less serious, administrative offence, such as being drunk and disorderly or committing a breach of the peace, you will be released within 24 hours.

Driving while drunk is an administrative offence, even if you have an accident. However, if someone is hurt in the accident it becomes a criminal offence. Possession of a controlled drug is usually a criminal offence. Possession of a large amount of cannabis or selling it (especially to children) could result in a five-year prison term. Prostitution is legal provided prostitutes are registered and have a permit.

Legal Advice

If you are arrested, you have the right to make one phone call to ‘a person in your confidence’ within Austria, and another to inform legal counsel. If you can’t afford legal representation, you can apply to the judge in writing for legal aid.

As a foreigner, your best bet when encountering legal problems is to contact your national consulate for advice.