Are police vehicles part of the critical infrastructure?
Section 126 of the Austrian Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch, StGB) regulates serious damage to property. This is the case, among other things, if the property damaged is an essental part of the critical infrastructure (Section 126 (1) subparagraph 5 of the Austrian Criminal Code).
In a recent decision, the Austrian Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof, OGH) had to deal with the question of whether (also individual) emergency vehicles are essential parts of the critical infrastructure.
What had happened?
The defendant was driving in a drunken state at very high speed in the Vienna city area and disregarded several traffic regulations – for example, he drove his vehicle against the prescribed direction of traffic and disregarded a red light as well as several restricted areas and lines. Due to this driving style, several road users had to swerve or brake. The police officers present then attempted to pull over the defendant in order to establish his identity and carry out a traffic stop. However, the defendant attempted to prevent the officers from performing their duties by crashing his vehicle into the right side of the patrol car. This injured the two officers and destroyed the police vehicle (considerable property damage of approximately EUR 20,000.00 was caused).
The defendant was later found guilty by the Vienna Regional Court for Criminal Matters of several offenses (e.g. coercion, deliberate endangerment of the general public, resistance to state authority, serious bodily injury, and serious damage to property).
The defendant appealed the verdict of the trial court to the Austrian Supreme Court on several grounds of nullity.
What did the Supreme Court decide?
With regard to the damage to the police vehicle, the Supreme Court stated that individual emergency vehicles are also essential components of the critical infrastructure and thus – in addition to the elements of the crime under Section 126 (1) subparagraph 7 of the Austrian Criminal Code (value threshold of EUR 5,000.00) – the elements of the crime under Section 126 (1) subparagraph 5 of the Austrian Criminal Code are also fulfilled. However, since this subsumption error did not have a detrimental effect on the defendant, it was not to be corrected.
The appeal for nullity was therefore dismissed.
What was essential, however, was the clarification by the Austrian Supreme Court that (also individual) emergency vehicles are essential components of the critical infrastructure and that the intentional damage of such constitutes serious damage to property.
(Decision OGH 12 Os 118/21a of 22.10.2021)
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