Legal and illegal behaviour penalties

This part of the tools is to give you important information about your behavior in the country and the behavior of other people towards you. This part of the tool discusses which is considered acceptable and lawful and unlawful behavior. Here you can find what is the authority of the police, what to do in an emergency situation, which numbers to call.

Acceptable Behaviour in Bulgaria

Behaving in a way that causes distress or alarm to another person is unacceptable.
Some examples of unacceptable behaviour are:

  • It is against the law to drop litter.
  • Do not urinate or spit in public places.
  • Do not touch or fondle people without their permission.
  • Do respect others’ personal space.
  • Do not make insulting or sexual comments.
  • People may find it intimidating to be stared, whistled, shouted at or followed.
  • It is against the law to use offensive, threatening or abusive words or behaviour.
  • It is against the law to assault anyone in any way (physical assault, general violence, sexual assault).
  • It is against the law to have sexual intercourses with minors.
  • It is against the law to vandalise property e.g. by drawing graffiti on walls, or breaking windows.
  • Begging is against the law.

Alcohol and Drugs

  • Alcohol can only be purchased legally by persons aged 18 years or over.
  • In shops, pubs and nightclubs alcohol can only be consumed by persons aged 18 years or over.
  • Municipal authorities in some cities may also forbid drinking alcohol in public
  • It is against the law for staff at any bar/shop to sell you alcohol if you are drunk.
  • You could be arrested if you are drunk and disorderly in public.
  • It is against the law to use, possess or supply any controlled drugs (e.g. cannabis, heroin and cocaine).

If you break the law you could be arrested. You could receive a large fine. If you are convicted, you could be deported or you could even go to prison.

Driving

To drive legally in Bulgaria you must:

  • Be 18 years old in order to be able to drive in the country;
  • Be sure your car is legally safe to be driven on the roads (it must undergo annual road-worthiness testing, have all obligatory insurances)
  • Drive on the right side of the road.
  • Have the following documents before you drive: driving lenience that is valid in the country, insurance for civil liability (third party liability), registration documents for the car.
  • If you buy a vehicle in the BG you must register it with the Traffic police.
  • Always wear a seat-belt. All drivers and passengers (including passengers in the back seat) must wear seat-belts at all times. All children under 12 years old or 135cm in height must use a booster seat.
  • If an emergency vehicle (ambulance, fire engine or police car) approaches with lights flashing and/or sirens on you should get out of the way as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • You MUST NOT drive while using a hand-held mobile phone. It is against the law.
  • You must not drive if you have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs – including some prescribed medications. Only a very small amount of alcohol is legally permitted for drivers. The blood/alcohol limit in Bulgaria is 0.5 grams of alcohol per litre of blood. Police have the power to carry out random alcohol tests on drivers at any time, refusal to take the test may lead to further penalties.

Bulgarian police officers with their vehicles, source.

Personal Safety

  • Burglary: Close and lock all your windows and doors when you go out. Consider leaving a light on if you are going out at night. Don’t let strangers into your home.
  • Vehicles: don’t leave items on display in your car. Put them out of sight and make sure the vehicle is locked.
  • Street robbery: keep possessions such as mobile phones out of sight. Stay in busy streets when you are walking outside. Avoid shortcuts such as alleyways. Take special care when using cash machines.
  • Distraction burglary: Genuine callers will carry clear identification and won’t mind if you want to ring someone to check before you let them in.
  • Bicycle crime: make sure you lock your bike if you leave it in a public place.

Weapons

  • It is against the law to be in possession of knives or weapons of any kind in a public place without a license or lawful reason.
  • It is against the law at all times to have a gun without a license.

Sexual Offenses

  • It is against the law to have sexual contact with anyone under the age of 14.
  • It is against the law to possess pornographic images of children.
  • It is against the law to take part in sexual behavior with or towards any person without their consent. Remember, NO means NO.
  • Rape is an offense punishable by imprisonment. Sex within marriage, without consent, is rape.
  • Controlling or causing prostitution is against the law.
  • Trafficking people is against the law.

Theft

  • Most shops have either store security or closed circuit television. If you are caught stealing you could be prosecuted and fined or sent to prison.

Domestic Violence

  • Domestic violence is any incident of threatening, abusive or violent behavior (physical, psychological, emotional or financial) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members.
  • Domestic violence can happen in any relationship – family, marriage, cohabitation or just dating. It can affect people regardless of their gender, sexuality, profession, age, nationality, ethnic origin, disability, class or lifestyle. There are no typical victims of domestic violence.
  • Domestic violence is not something that only happens to women. Men and children experience domestic violence too.
  • If you report any incident to the police they will take positive action and arrest anyone suspected of committing an offense. The police can help keep you and any dependents safe from further harm, and can refer you to specialist agencies that can help you to live a life free from domestic violence and abuse.

The role of the police/Police authority

The police have a role in ensuring that people behave in an acceptable way in public places.

The achievement of this goal is possible in the presence of real cooperation between the police and the citizens. It consists in observing laws and supporting police officers’ efforts to protect public order and counteract crime.

Main tasks of the police

  • Keeps public order.
  • Prevents and reveals crimes.
  • Protects the rights and freedoms of citizens.
  • It safeguards the citizens’ property.
  • Controls traffic safety.
  • Issues identity papers.
  • Provides administrative services.

Which individuals can be arrested and what are their rights?

  • Individuals for whom there is evidence that they have committed a crime.
  • Individuals, who, after a proper warning, knowingly obstruct the police authority to carry out its duty of service.
  • Individuals, who show severe psychological abnormalities and by their behavior violate public order or expose their lives to obvious danger.
  • If it is impossible to establish their identity.
  • Individuals who have departed from serving the custodial sentence or the places where they have been detained by law.

From the time of their detention, individuals have the rights:

  • To be informed of the reasons for the detention.
  • Of attorney’s defense from the beginning of detention.
  • To appeal in court the lawfulness of detention.
  • To call family member or a close friend.
  • Have medical examination.
  • The term of detention may not be longer than 24 hours.
  • The term of detention may be increased by the prosecutor (up to 72 hours) or the court (as long as the court decides).

In an emergency, when a life is in danger or a crime is being committed, always call 112. You will then be asked which emergency service you require, the police, an ambulance or the fire service.

If you need to contact the emergency services and you have difficulty speaking or reading Bulgarian, interpreters can be provided.

Here below you can find some useful links with further information:

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