Defendants (criminal proceedings)

If you are suspected or accused of a criminal offence, these factsheets take you through the criminal process and the various steps involved. They explain your rights and obligations at each stage, from the time of pre-trial investigations, right through to after the trial. The factsheets also provide information on how minor offences, such as road traffic offences, are dealt with.

If you are suspected or accused of a crime, you have certain legally guaranteed rights that must be upheld. You need to know what these are and you will also want to be fully informed of what happens when during the various stages of the criminal process. The factsheets cover key areas including which authority carries out investigations, how to get legal advice, the roles and rights of the various entities and officials and information on any deadlines that may apply during the process and the assistance available to you. You will also find information on your obligations during the process.

As the situation varies from one country to another, it is important that you understand the process and are fully aware of your rights and obligations. Take note of the roles and any deadlines that apply as you read through these factsheets.

The following factsheets will guide you through the most important steps of criminal proceedings in each Member State, explaining the rights you have and the basic rules you need to follow to exercise them.

Please select the relevant country's flag to obtain detailed national information.

This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only. If you need assistance, always check with a lawyer or other expert to establish what applies in your particular situation.

Any reference in these fact sheets to a person of the male sex shall be deemed also to constitute a reference to a person of the female sex, and vice versa, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

Last update: 18/01/2019

This page is maintained by the European Commission. The information on this page does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. The Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice with regard to copyright rules for European pages.

Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.
Моля, имайте предвид, че версиите на следните езици вече са преведени.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Belgium

These information sheets explain what happens when someone is suspected or accused of an offence which is dealt with by means of a hearing before a court. For information on minor offences such as breaches of the Highway Code which are normally punishable by a fixed penalty such as a fine, see Link opens in new windowinformation sheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you will find full information about your rights here.

Summary of criminal proceedings

Below is a summary of the normal stages in criminal proceedings.

Investigating courts

The Judges’ Council Chamber and the (appeal) indictment division are investigating courts. They check that the arrest warrant is in order, rule on detaining the person on remand, direct the investigation and decide whether or not to commit the case for trial by the court with jurisdiction to hear the merits of the case.

Proceedings before the Judges’ Council Chamber:

  • summons by recorded delivery letter;
  • consultation of the file at the court office;
  • request for additional duties to be carried out prior to the hearing;
  • hearing on the existence of sufficient charges for the case to be heard;
  • preliminary deliberation in chambers and setting of date for order to be issued;
  • committal order issued. Unless specified otherwise by law, the accused does not have any right to appeal against this order.

Criminal courts

If you are accused of a serious offence (an offence punishable by a fine of at least €26 and/or imprisonment of between eight days and five years), you will be summoned to appear before the criminal court, which will determine whether you are guilty of the allegations against you, will acquit or convict you and where appropriate will make an award of damages to the victims. The criminal court may sentence you to a maximum of 20 years in prison in the case of a crime reduced to a serious offence by statute.

Procedure before the criminal courts:

  • summons by court bailiff;
  • consultation of the file at the court office;
  • hearing before the court;
  • judge deliberates for one month;
  • judgment issued;
  • right of appeal.

Assize courts

If you are accused of a crime (an offence punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment), you will be committed for trial by the assize court. A jury made up of 12 jurors chosen from among the population will determine whether you are guilty of the charges against you. With the court, composed of three judges, these jurors will decide, if you are found guilty, what sentence to impose. The court alone, however, will decide the amount of any damages payable to victims, if they so request.

Procedure before the assize courts:

  • committal for trial issued by the indictment court, and summons served by a court bailiff;
  • consultation of the file at the court office (free copy upon request);
  • preliminary hearing: composition of the list of witnesses to be heard, and of the jury by drawing lots;
  • oral investigation of the case;
  • discussion as to guilt, then potentially on the sentence, and then on the civil interests;
  • no appeal (possibility of appeal on a point of law).

You will find details of all these stages in the proceedings and about your rights in the information sheets. This information cannot take the place of consulting a lawyer and is intended only for guidance.

The role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission does not play any part in criminal proceedings within Member States and is unable to help you if you wish to make a complaint. These information sheets tell you how you can complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information you need

Link opens in new window1 – Consulting a lawyer

Link opens in new window2 – My rights during the enquiries

  • Arrest and questioning by the police
  • Disclosure file
  • Investigation file
  • Special case: remand in custody
  • Closure of the investigation

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 – Breaches of the Highway Code and other minor offences

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница нидерландски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.
Моля, имайте предвид, че версиите на следните езици вече са преведени.

1 - Consulting a lawyer

It is very important to obtain independent advice from a lawyer when you are involved in any way in criminal proceedings. The information sheets tell you when and under what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you how the lawyer will help you. This general information sheet will show you how to find a lawyer and how the lawyer’s fees will be covered if you are unable to pay him.

How to find a lawyer

Every Belgian lawyer comes under the Bar of the judicial district where his chambers are located. In Brussels, it consists of two associations, one covering French-speaking lawyers, the other covering Dutch-speaking lawyers.

The French- and German-speaking Bar Association (O.B.F.G) consists of the bars for the Walloon region and the French association in Brussels.

The capital’s Dutch association and the Flemish bars both come under the “Orde van de Vlaamse Balies” (O.V.B.)

The list of lawyers can be found in the alphabetical telephone directory or yellow pages, or on the Internet (Link opens in new windowhttps://avocats.be/fr or Link opens in new windowhttp://www.advocaat.be/). You can search for a lawyer who normally specialises in defending people before the criminal courts by doing a subject search under the heading “criminal law” ("droit pénal" in French, “strafrecht” in Dutch).

You can also find a lawyer close to you by searching by judicial area or district.

The secretariat of each bar association can also give you a list of its lawyers.

You can also contact a lawyer who has been recommended to you directly by e-mail, letter or telephone.

How to pay a lawyer

As a rule, it is you who pays your lawyer. You may be asked for a payment on account before any work is carried out. Fees are not set by law. However, the lawyer must tell you how his bill will be calculated: hourly rate applied according to the time spent on your defence or set amount for each type of service (consultation, reading file, pleading, etc.).

In addition to this there are the costs incurred by his chambers and the disbursements paid to the judicial administration department.

If you do not have sufficient income to pay a lawyer, you can request free legal aid from the Legal Aid Office covering your lawyer. The list of offices for each district is available on the Internet:

If you receive benefits from the C.P.A.S, guaranteed income for elderly persons, income replacement allowance for disabled persons, have a dependent child who receives guaranteed family allowances, are a tenant in social housing, a minor, are insolvent (bankruptcy ruling), in custody, a remand prisoner summoned by record or are mentally ill, you will obtain the assistance of a lawyer free of charge.

The same applies if you live alone and have a monthly income of less than €860, or if you are living with someone and the total income of the adults living with you is less than €1 104 (plus €145.16 for each dependent person).

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница нидерландски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.
Моля, имайте предвид, че версиите на следните езици вече са преведени.

2 - My rights during the enquiries and investigation and before the matter is referred to the court

What is the purpose of the enquiries and criminal investigation?

They are used to gather evidence establishing the offence and to verify evidence which might exonerate the suspect or show that there has not been any offence.

What are the stages in the enquiries and investigation? Who conducts each of the stages?

The police investigate offences and offenders and gather evidence.

Where they suspect the existence of an offence, they notify the Crown Prosecutor who decides:

  • either to close the file without further action;
  • or to continue the enquiries himself (disclosure);
  • or to appoint an investigating judge, asking him to investigate a specific fact and not one person in particular (investigation).

The Crown Prosecutor has less extensive powers than the investigating judge. The investigating judge or the Crown Prosecutor directs the enquiries and gives instructions to the police who carry out the stated obligations to investigate (interviews, searches, DNA samples, etc.).

Once the investigations have been completed

Either the file is for disclosure ("information"), in which case the Crown Prosecutor can:

  • close the file without further action;
  • propose a settlement: public prosecution dropped (no criminal trial) in return for a sum of money (classic procedure in the case of a breach of the Highway Code);
  • propose mediation, in the case of minor offences: no trial, but the perpetrator must compensate the victim and, if necessary, undergo therapy or training;
  • bring the suspect to court directly before the judge hearing the merits of the case;
  • summon the accused to appear before a court hearing the case by report: the summons is sent to the accused while he is on remand (for a maximum period of 24 hours), or goes before the Crown Prosecutor in order to speed up the proceedings.

Or the file is for committal, in which case the file is sent to the public prosecutor’s office, which will make the final submissions.  The accused can then read the file.  He is summoned to appear before the Judges’ Council Chamber which, after reading the enquiry report from the investigating judge, any civil law parties (victims), the public prosecutor’s application to commence proceedings and the defence pleadings, may:

  • either refer the file to the investigating judge for further investigation;
  • or, if the investigations are complete:
  • grant the suspension of the ruling where the public hearing could prejudice the accused;
  • issue a ruling internally in a social protection institution, if the person committed the offence while the balance of his mind was seriously disturbed, rendering him incapable of controlling his actions at the time of facts and is still in this condition;
  • refer the file for trial by the relevant court (police court or criminal division); if it considers that the facts come under the assize court, it issues an order for the documents to be forwarded to the Principal Crown Prosecutor, as only the indictments division can refer cases to the assize court.

The accused’s right of appeal, which is confined to certain procedural matters, is exercised before the indictments division.

During the investigations, the investigating judge may issue an arrest warrant on certain conditions:

  • the existence of serious indications of guilt;
  • facts listed as punishable by at least one year’s imprisonment;
  • and absolute necessity for public safety.

If the maximum penalty applicable does not exceed fifteen years’ imprisonment, the warrant can only be issued if there are serious reasons to fear that the accused will abscond, re-offend or evade justice, or that evidence will disappear or there will be collusion with third parties.

The accused will appear before the Judges’ Council Chamber within five days of the warrant being issued, then every month until the investigations are closed (every three months in the case of a  crime reduced to a misdemeanour by statute).

My rights during the enquiries and investigation

Arrest and questioning by the police (1)

Under what circumstances and for how long can I be detained by the police?

You can be detained in the case of a crime or offence discovered while or immediately after being committed, or at the request of the Crown Prosecutor or investigating judge where there are serious indications of guilt. You cannot be detained by the police for more than 24 hours.

Can I be searched?

Yes, at the time of your arrest or if there is reason to believe that you are carrying a weapon or dangerous object, or if there is a risk to law and order.

Can the police enter my home?

Yes, in the case of an offence discovered while or immediately after being committed or with your consent.

Can my office or car be searched?

Yes, in the same way as your home. However, certain places are sacrosanct and others are specially protected: searching them requires a special procedure (office of a diplomat, member of parliament, premises of those holding professional secrets, etc.).

Your car may be searched if there is reason to believe that it was used for committing an offence, for carrying wanted persons, incriminating documents or evidence, or objects which are dangerous to law and order.

Can I contact a member of my family, a friend, a doctor or a member of my embassy?

If the police consider it useful or upon request, you will be examined by a doctor. At this stage, the police decide whether or not to allow you to use the telephone. If you are a minor, the police are obliged to inform your parents, your guardian or the person looking after you, in writing or verbally, as soon as possible.

What are my rights while being questioned by the police?

You have the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself, i.e. not to collaborate in producing evidence against you.

At the start of any questioning, you will be informed that :

  • you may ask that all the questions put to you and your responses are documented exactly as stated;
  • you may ask for a particular measure or interview to be carried out;
  • your statements may be used as evidence in court.

You may use the documents in your possession, provided that this does not involve questioning being delayed. You may, at the time of questioning or thereafter, ask that these documents be attached to the minutes of the hearing or filed with the court office.

At the end of questioning, the report is given to you to read, unless you ask for it to be read out to you. You will be asked whether your statements need to be corrected or added to.

If you wish to express yourself in a language other than the language of the proceedings, a sworn interpreter will be used, your statements are noted in your language, or you are asked to write your statement yourself. If questioning takes place with the help of an interpreter, his name and capacity are stated.

You will be informed that a copy of your examination may be issued to you free of charge.

Will information be sought about my criminal record?

The police services have access to the central records office.

Can my lawyer assist me?

Your lawyer cannot assist you at any questioning and cannot meet you during the 24 hour custody period.

Disclosure file (2)

The enquiries are conducted by the Crown Prosecutor. The preliminary disclosure session is inquisitorial: secret, written and ex parte.

What can the Crown prosecutor do during the disclosure phase?

Other than in the case of legal exceptions, disclosure measures cannot include any coercion or prejudice personal rights and freedom. Property may be seized under certain conditions.

The Crown Prosecutor may, inter alia:

  • go to the scene of the facts,
  • interview suspects or witnesses or have them interviewed by the police,
  • have someone arrested (except in the case of an offence discovered while or immediately after being committed) for 24 hours,
  • have a DNA analysis carried out with the suspect’s consent,
  • intercept and seize post (but not open it),
  • obtain bank information subject to certain conditions,
  • carry out searches in the case of an offence discovered while or immediately after being committed or with the consent of the person actually using the premises,
  • have particular search methods carried out which may be very intrusive.

What can I do if a disclosure measure infringes my rights?

You can apply for it to be withdrawn by means of a request with reasons, the criminal summary application, for example if your property is seized as evidentiary items. Within 15 days, the Crown Prosecutor must give his decision. In the absence of a reply or in the event of a refusal, you may appeal to the indictments division.

You may also, in this case, ask the Crown Prosecutor to authorise the central body for seizure and confiscation to sell the property or return it in exchange for a guarantee.

Can I access the file?

Unlike the investigation system, there are no particular rules regarding the total or partial communication of the file to the parties in question at the disclosure stage. You may request access to the file from the Crown Prosecutor, who has the discretionary power to accept or refuse.

Can I influence the outcome of the file?

No. The Crown Prosecutor  alone will take the decision to close the file without further action, appoint an investigating judge, summon you or invite you in writing to appear before the court hearing the facts of the case, or offer you an alternative means of settling the prosecution (settlement or mediation: in this case there will not be a trial if you pay the fine or comply with the conditions imposed at the time of mediation).

Investigation file (3)

The investigation is conducted under the direction and authority of the investigating judge, appointed by the Crown Prosecutor, or the alleged victim of an offence by means of an action for damages in a criminal case.

What can an investigating judge do?

He can use all the measures available to the Crown Prosecutor, and substantial coercive measures: issue an arrest warrant, have telephone conversations monitored, have searches carried out without consent, even wider particular search methods, etc.

Must I be interviewed by the investigating judge?

Questioning by the investigating judge is only compulsory where an arrest warrant is issued.

Does the judge have to tell me that there is a case to answer?

In principle, the judge must charge you if there is serious evidence of your guilt. You are charged after being questioned or by letter and it gives you the right to request access to the criminal file and the right to demand additional investigations.

Can the judge monitor my telephone calls?

Yes, subject to complying with very specific legal conditions.

Can I object to a search?

Your home may be searched if a search warrant has been signed by the judge, and if the search is carried out between 5 am and 9 pm, unless agreed otherwise.

Can the judge physically force me to give a DNA sample ?

Yes, under certain conditions.

What can I do against an investigation which infringes my rights?

You can submit a criminal summary application (cf. Disclosure).

Can I access the file during the enquiries?

If you are charged but not held, you may request access to the file by means of a request sent to the investigating judge, who may refuse access but must give reasons for his refusal. In the absence of any response from the judge or a refusal, you have the right to appeal to the indictments division.

Can I ask for certain investigations to be carried out?

Yes, whether or not you are held in custody. You may ask for this by submitting a request. The investigating judge may refuse if he does not consider the measure to be indispensable to uncovering the truth or considers it to be harmful to the investigation. A possibility of appeal exists.

Special case: remand in custody (4)

How must questioning before the judge be conducted?

Questioning prior to the issue of an arrest warrant must take place within 24 hours of being detained, otherwise the arrest warrant is void. Questioning must include in particular the possibility of issuing a warrant and the facts in question.

Your lawyer cannot be present.

Can I be interviewed by the judge subsequently?

You can ask for summary questioning. It is the only questioning at which your lawyer is allowed to be present.

When can I see my lawyer?

After your first examination by the investigating judge.

Can I contest the legality of or reasons for the arrest warrant?

You cannot appeal against the decision to be placed under an arrest warrant.

Within five days of the warrant being issued, you will appear before the Judges’ Council Chamber. On the day before, you will have had access to your file. Your lawyer or you yourself may request your release.

Your lawyer may only raise an irregularity in the warrant at the time of this first appearance before the Judges’ Council Chamber (and on appeal). If the arrest warrant is confirmed, you have a right to appeal. You will appear before the indictments division within 15 days. If these deadlines are not complied with, you will be released immediately.

The custody confirmation is valid for one (or three) months. You may, at each hearing, contest the relevance of the arrest warrant and/or the serious indications of guilt. The file will be available to you two days prior to each appearance.

Can I communicate with third parties while in prison?

You can always communicate with your lawyer.

However, the investigating judge may ban you from communicating with any other person for a maximum of three days.

When can I be released?

At any time by the investigating judge, or by a decision of the investigating courts when you appear. Your release may be subject to conditions or bail.

I am a national of another country. Do I have to be present during the investigation?

An arrest warrant may be issued if there is a risk of evading justice. The investigating judge or investigating courts may release you on bail. You will recover the sum of money paid if you appear at all stages of the proceedings.

If you are allowed to remain free, you will be asked to appear at hearings and, in principle before the court hearing the merits of the case. The investigating judge may make it a condition of your release on bail that you do not leave the country. These conditions may be extended for periods of three months. You may contest them before the Judges’ Council Chamber.

Closure of the investigation (5)

What can I do if the enquiries drag on?

After one year, you may submit a reasoned request for the case to be referred to the indictments division, which will review the conduct of the enquiries.

Can the accusations/charges be changed prior to the trial?

The Crown Prosecutor reads the file sent by the judge and specifies the charges on which the accused is to be tried before the court. He may also make submissions that there is no case to answer or ask the judge to undertake certain additional enquiries. The criminal classification may also be changed by the  Crown Prosecutor at this time, or by the Judges’ Council Chamber which decides on the outcome of the case.

Can I plead guilty prior to the hearing in respect of all or some of the accusations/charges?

No, you are presumed innocent until you are finally convicted by a court hearing the merits of the case.

How is the case closed?

The Judges’ Council Chamber decides, after hearing the report from the investigating judge, any party claiming damages in the criminal case, the prosecutor and the defence:

  • to commit the accused for trial by the appropriate court;
  • to rule that there is no case to answer;
  • to grant a suspension of the ruling: the facts are deemed to have been established, but no sentence is given. The judge sets a probation period, which may be subject to conditions which have to be met;
  • to apply the law of social defence (confinement).

What are my rights during this phase?

You can read your file and copy documents prior to the hearing before the Judges’ Council Chamber. You may also request that further enquires are carried out. If the investigating judge refuses to carry them out, you have the right to appeal to the indictments division.

Can I appeal?

You cannot appeal against committal for trial, except in the event of an irregularity, omission or ground for nullity affecting part of the investigation, the obtaining of evidence or the committal order, or if you cite a reason for inadmissibility or termination of the criminal prosecution.

Can I be charged with an offence for which I have already been prosecuted in another Member State of the European Union?

In principle no.

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница френски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.
Моля, имайте предвид, че версиите на следните езици вече са преведени.

3 - My rights before the court

Where will the trial take place?

  • The police court hears the least serious cases (offences punishable by a fine of between €1 and €25 (breaches of the Rural Code, etc.) and all breaches of the Highway Code (fatal accidents, etc.);
  • The criminal division hears offences or crimes reduced to misdemeanours by statute (those to which mitigating circumstances have applied immediately);
  • The assize court hears the most serious crimes (those for which it’s not possible or desirable for mitigating circumstances to apply).

Will the trial be held in public?

In principle, the trial is held in public in a room accessible to everyone (onlookers, journalists), unless this is not possible for security reasons.

Where you are affected by a sexual offence (rape, etc.), you can ask the court to hear the case in private, i.e. to restrict access to the court room to those persons to whom the trial relates.

If it is a matter of detaining an offender who is not responsible for his actions because he is seriously mentally disturbed, the latter may ask for the case to be heard in private, to which the Public Prosecutor's Office may object.

Who will hear the case?

Professional judges before the police court or criminal division. However, before the assize court, 12 jurors will alone rule on whether the accused is guilty. They will then decide on the penalty with three judges.

Can the accusations/charges be amended during the trial?

The facts of which you are accused may be treated differently by the Prosecutor’s Office and by the judge. For example, if you have broken a car window, the Prosecutor’s Office may prosecute you for attempted theft, whereas in fact you only intended to break it. The court may classify it differently and consider that it was a case of damage. However, it must notify you in order to enable you to defend yourself on this new basis.

What happens if I plead guilty to all or some of the accusations/charges during the trial?

The sentence will not be reduced automatically.

What are my rights during the trial?

Do I have to be present at the trial? Do I have to be present throughout the trial?

You can always be represented by a lawyer. In exceptional cases, you will have to appear in person where the court has deemed this to be necessary by means of an order which it must ensure that you receive prior to the hearing.

Can it take place without me?

If you are not present or represented by a lawyer to reply to the accusations, the trial will take place without you and you will be judged in absentia.

If I live in another Member State, can I take part by video?

No.

Will I have an interpreter if I do not understand the language of the court?

Yes.

Do I have to have a lawyer ?

No, except in the assize court.

Will I be given a lawyer?

Yes, on certain conditions (see Link opens in new windowsheet 1).

Can I change lawyers?

Yes, even without giving a reason.

Can I speak at the trial?

Yes.

Do I have to speak at the trial?

It is not compulsory.

What will be the consequences if I do not tell the truth during the proceedings?

You have the right not to incriminate yourself and to develop your defence strategy as you see fit. This also includes the right to remain silent.

What are my rights in respect of the evidence cited against me?

Can I contest the evidence submitted against me?

Yes.

How?

By asking the judge at the hearing to have further investigations carried out.

Why?

To demonstrate the unlikelihood of the accusation.

What sort of evidence can I submit in my favour?

Submission of any document, request for a second expert opinion, hearing a new witness, etc.

Can I use a private detective to obtain evidence in my favour?

Yes.

Is such evidence acceptable?

Yes.

Can I ask witnesses to speak in my favour?

Yes.

Can I or my lawyer question other witnesses in the case?

Yes, through the police or the judge.

Can I or my lawyer contest what they say?

Yes.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

Yes.

  • What type of information?

Previous convictions.

  • In what circumstances? At what stage?

They enable the maximum sentence to be doubled and may prevent the application of measures in your favour.

  • Will previous convictions in another Member State be taken into account?

Yes, they may be forwarded to the judge.

What will happen at the end of the trial?

What are the possible outcomes of the trial?

  • The prosecution may be declared inadmissible, if an important rule has not been complied with. However, a new trial may be possible;
  • Acquittal, if there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate your guilt beyond all reasonable doubt;
  • Conviction.

In the event of a conviction, the judge has 5 options, depending on the nature of the offences and your criminal history:

  • custodial sentence;
  • community service order: to carry out within one year unpaid work for the community, subject otherwise to receiving a prison sentence or fine;
  • fine;
  • stay of execution of the conviction or suspension of the ruling, with or without conditions (not committing any further offences, undergoing training, not frequenting certain areas, etc.) for a period of between 1 and 5 years;
  • simple declaration of guilt.

What is the victim’s role during the trial?

The victim may speak on the facts relating to him/her and claim monetary compensation.

How?

Verbally or by submitting a written claim.

At what stage?

At the hearing, just after you have been questioned by the judge.

For more information, see the sheets on the rights of victims.

Related links

Link opens in new windowAddresses of the courts

Ministry of Justice website

Link opens in new windowAddresses of prisons

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница нидерландски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.
Моля, имайте предвид, че версиите на следните езици вече са преведени.

4 – My rights after the court has given its decision

Can I appeal?

Can I appeal against the judgment/ruling issued at the proceedings against the sentence?

A judgment given in your absence or when you have not been represented by a lawyer is given by default.  A specific right of recourse exists, application for the judgment to be set aside, which is always available. An appeal is also possible.

If the judgment has been given in your presence, the decision is in the presence of both parties. The right of recourse is an appeal, which is only available when the decision has been issued by a court. There is no appeal, therefore, against the rulings of the appeal court and assize court.

How? To whom?

If you are in custody, the application for the judgment to be set aside and the appeal can be lodged with the court office at the prison.  If you are free, the application for the judgment to be set aside is made with the help of a court officer, whereas the appeal must be filed with the office of the court which gave the ruling.

Within what deadlines?

The appeal must be made within 15 days.

  • The deadline for an application for the judgment to be set aside starts to run from the day following the day on which the accused learns of the decision in writing (service).
  • The deadline for an appeal starts from the day following the hearing at which the judgment was given.

What are the grounds for appeal?

Disagreement with the facts declared to have been established or on legal grounds.

What will happen if I appeal?

What will happen if I am in prison when I file an appeal?

If the appeal relates to the case for which you are being detained and you have been given a custodial sentence, you will stay in prison until a new decision is given. An application for provisional release on bail may be made during these new proceedings.

If you are being held for another matter, the appeal will not affect your situation in prison.

How long will it take for the appeal to be heard?

The application for the judgment to be set aside is called for hearing within 15 days of the application if you are free, or within 3 days if you are in custody. The appeal is set within no more than 60 days of being filed for.

Will I be able to submit new evidence for the appeal?

Yes.

What rules are applicable?

The same rules as before the first judge (see Link opens in new windowsheet 3).

What will happen at the appeal hearing?

The judge will first examine whether the appeal was filed in time, then he will judge again the facts put forward and any sentence to be given.

What might the court’s decision be?

What will happen if the appeal is upheld/dismissed?

If the application for the judgment to be set aside or appeal are accepted, there are 2 possible scenarios:

  • The proceedings are declared inadmissible or you are acquitted, which means that you will be released immediately if you were being held;
  • a lower sentence is imposed.

If the appeal is rejected,

  • in the case of an application for the judgment to be set aside, the conviction will be upheld but never increased;
  • in the case of an appeal, the conviction may be upheld or increased.

Is it possible to appeal against a higher court/other court?

An appeal is possible against a decision given on an application for the judgment to be set aside by a court, before the appeal court.  An appeal in cassation may be brought within 15 days before the Court of cassation against a decision given on appeal, by making a declaration at the office of the court of appeal. It will not suspend the enforcement of the conviction.

Under what circumstances?

An appeal in cassation is only justified in the event of a breach of law or procedure.

If the first decision was wrong, will I get damages?

Yes, if you were held in this case.

How much?

An amount to compensate for the loss suffered as a result of being held in custody.

How?

By making a written request to the Federal Justice Department.

If my appeal is upheld, will the conviction remain on my criminal record?

No.

When does a conviction become final?

When an application for the judgment to be set aside has not been made within 15 days of notification of a conviction issued by default.

Where no appeal has been filed either by you or the Prosecutor’s office within 25 days of the conviction being given.

I am a national of another Member State, can I be deported after proceedings held in Belgium?

Yes.

Is the transfer automatic?

No, the consent of Belgium and the other Member State is required in all cases.

Under what circumstances?

  • Case 1: to enforce in your country of origin the non-appealable conviction handed down in Belgium, of a period of imprisonment of at least 6 months (see also: Link opens in new windowA to Z of Justice

a) with your consent, only if you have a permit to reside in Belgium. See Link opens in new windowEuropean Convention.

b) without your consent, if you do not have or no longer have a permit to reside in Belgium (see Link opens in new windowEuropean Convention) or if you have been the subject of a European arrest warrant issued in Belgium with a guarantee of return to your country of origin.

  • Case 2: without your consent, to be judged in your country of origin based on a European mandate issued by the Member State of which you are a national.  If you still have to serve your sentence here, Belgium may wait for the end of your sentence before transferring you to your Member State, or may commit you temporarily to be judged there with a guarantee that you will then be returned to serve your Belgian sentence in Belgium. If your usual place of residence is here, you may ask Belgium to hand you over on condition that you are returned to enable you to serve the foreign sentence in Belgium.
  • Case 3: without your consent, to serve in your country of origin a sentence given based on a European warrant issued by the Member State of which you are a national.  If you still have to serve your sentence here, Belgium will wait for the end of your sentence before transferring you to your country of origin. If your usual place of residence is here, you may ask Belgium to refuse to execute the mandate so as to enable you to serve the sentence in Belgium rather than in your country of origin.

Can I appeal against the decision to deport me?

Yes, except in the case of voluntary transfer which has been granted to you.

As part of a return in order to serve the sentence given in Belgium in your Member State of origin (case 1), applications to set aside and suspend a judgment may be brought within 60 days before the Council of State, as well as a judicial review before the urgent applications judge.

As part of the execution of a European arrest warrant issued by your country of origin (cases 2 and 3), the urgent applications judge carries out an initial verification and review within 15 days of the arrest by the Judges’ Council Chamber. An appeal may be filed within 24 hous of the ruling being given by the Judges’ Council Chamber before the indictments division (see Link opens in new windowsheet 3). A further appeal may also be filed within 24 hours of the ruling of the indictments division before the Court of cassation.

If I am convicted in Belgium, can I be tried again for the same crime?

No.

Information about the accusations/conviction

Will information about the conviction and associated accusations be entered on my criminal record?

Yes.

How and where will this information be kept?

It will be kept on a database known as the “Criminal records office”, managed by the Federal Justice Department.

How long will it be kept for?

Convictions with police sentences (1 to 7 days’ imprisonment, fine of between 1 and 25 euros, community service order of between 20 and 45 hours) will no longer be mentioned on the extract from the criminal record after 3 years.

Other convictions will remain there permanently. It is possible, however, to have them removed by means of a rehabilitation procedure.

Can it be kept without my consent?

Yes

Can I object to this information being kept?

No.

Who has access to my record?

The judicial and police authorities have unlimited access to it.

The criminal record should not be confused with the extract from the criminal record, required by some public administrations or certain individuals (employer, etc.), and not mentioning all the information held on the record. For example, simple declarations of guilt, imprisonment of no more than 6 months and fines of up to €500 or given for breaches of the Highway Code without any loss of licence in excess of 3 years will no longer be shown after 3 years and 25 days from the date the conviction is given. Furthermore, a suspended sentence, whether simple or probationary, is never mentioned on the extract.

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница нидерландски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.
Моля, имайте предвид, че версиите на следните езици вече са преведени.

5 - Minor offences

How are minor Highway Code offences dealt with?

If the local police discover breaches of the Highway Code, they may send the owner of the reported vehicle a form in order to find out the identity of the driver at the time of the facts.  The Crown Prosecutor may then offer you the option of avoiding criminal prosecution by paying, by bank transfer, a sum of money to the value added tax authorities, land registration and estates department.

Payment of this amount avoids you having to be called to appear before the police court, and therefore incurring a higher fine and having to pay further court courts.

However, agreeing to pay in this way implies acknowledgement of your fault and liability with regard to any victims where your offence caused damage to another user.

Who deals with these offences?

The relevant police prosecution authorities are in charge of proposing these settlements. The criminal fines department within the tax authorities manages the accounting side of the payments made and informs the Public Prosecutor about them.

Procedure?

The proposed settlement is sent to the person who has committed the offence by recorded delivery letter or by means of a notice issued by a police officer.  The deadline for payment varies between 15 days and 3 months, or even 6 months in exceptional cases.

Sanctions?

If you do not pay or refuse the proposed settlement, the Public Prosecutor summons the offender to appear before the police court in order to obtain his conviction to a penalty (fine, imprisonment, loss of driving licence) in accordance with the law.

Are nationals of other Member States prosecuted for these offences?

Yes.

How?

The police officer who discovers the offence proposes the settlement.

If it is refused, he can demand immediate payment of the minimum statutory fine, subject otherwise to immediate confiscation of the vehicle involved.

If the settlement is not accepted, the amount paid in advance may be reimbursed or deducted after the judgement by the police court.

How are other minor offences dealt with?

Antisocial behaviour (parking charges, public cleanliness) is managed by the district authorities. In the event of non-payment, you may be prosecuted before the local justice of the peace.

In social and tax matters, security at football matches, travel by rail and other public transport, specialist authorities are authorised to take receipt of administrative fines. Various legal remedies are available before the civil courts.

Are these offences listed on my criminal record?

Road traffic offences are noted on the criminal record. Administrative fines and fines relating to the law on football are not listed on the criminal record.

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница български е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Bulgaria

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected or accused of a crime which is dealt with by a trial in court. For information on road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Summary of the criminal process

The Bulgarian criminal process has two stages – pre-trial and trial.

  • The pre-trial proceedings aim to collect, through investigation, evidence to either confirm or deny an assumption that a certain person has committed a certain crime. The investigation is carried out by investigating magistrates, or investigating policemen, under the guidance of a prosecutor. The objective is to prepare and assist the prosecutor in deciding whether to file and justify charges in court against the accused person or to terminate the proceedings.
  • The trial begins with the prosecutor filing charges in court against a person for a crime committed by that person. Court proceedings involve opposing parties and the prosecutor, defendant and defence lawyer have equal procedural rights. The court examines the evidence produced by the prosecutor but may, at the request of the parties, or on the court’s own initiative, collect and examine new evidence in the search for truth.

The trial ends with a court judgement, which either convicts and imposes a penalty on the defendant, or declares the defendant not guilty.

Details about all of these stages in the process, and about your rights, can be found in the factsheets. This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for your guidance only.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 – Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 – My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • Investigation (incl. bringing charges and questioning)
  • Arrest (including European Arrest Warrant)
  • First court hearing
  • Detention or release
  • Preparation for trial by the prosecution
  • Preparation for trial by the defence
  • Measures to prevent evasion of prosecution
  • Ban on leaving Bulgaria

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

  • Interviewing a protected witness

Link opens in new window4 - My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 – Minor road traffic offencessubpage:169:5


Related links

Link opens in new windowCriminal Procedure Code

Last update: 13/03/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

1 - Getting legal advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The factsheets tell you when, and in what circumstances, you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.

Finding a lawyer

If you think that you need a lawyer but do not know any, you can choose among lawyers working with the district court in the area where you live. You can also find contact details of the 27 Bar Associations in Bulgaria on the Link opens in new windowSupreme Bar Council website. If you are arrested, you are entitled to see a lawyer from the moment of your arrest. As, after the arrest, you also have the right to contact a relative or a friend, you can ask them to hire a lawyer for you.

Paying for a lawyer

If you choose your lawyer, you pay for the services under a written agreement signed between you and the lawyer.

If you cannot afford, but wish to have a lawyer, and the interests of justice require this, you are entitled to free legal aid. It can be provided either at your request or by virtue of the law if you must have defence. Depending on the stage of the process (see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1), that decision is made either by the prosecutor (pre-trial) or by the court (during trial) following an assessment of your property status.

If you need to have legal advice, the prosecutor or the court promptly send their decision to the Council of the respective Bar Association to allocate a lawyer for you. Please note that if you are convicted you must refund the sum paid to the lawyer allocated to you.

Related links

Link opens in new windowThe Bar Act  

Link opens in new windowLegal Aid Act  

Link opens in new windowCriminal Procedure Code

Link opens in new windowNational Legal Service Authority

Link opens in new windowSupreme Bar Council

Last update: 13/03/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime (before the case goes to court)

What is the purpose of a criminal investigation?

The investigation collects evidence either to prove or deny an assumption that a person has committed a crime. An investigation can be caused by a complaint to the investigating authorities about a crime committed, or by information in the possession of those authorities, suggesting a crime. If the police catch someone in the act of committing a crime, that can also start an investigation.

Usually, all stages of the investigation are carried out by the police. Some cases are dealt with by investigating magistrates or prosecutors. But it is only a prosecutor that can guide and control an investigation.

What are the pre-trial stages?

Investigation (including bringing charges and questioning)

The investigating authorities seek to collect evidence which will prove or deny an assumption that a crime has been committed. If they collect enough evidence to support the assumption that a specific person has committed the crime, the investigating officer must notify that person in writing. The person must sign the notification. Right after that, the accused person is questioned.

Arrest

If the police find evidence suggesting that a person has committed a crime, the police can arrest and hold that person, but for not more than 24 hours. Only a prosecutor can decide whether the detention should be extended, but for not more than 72 hours. Otherwise, the detained person should be released. The purpose of the police detention is to establish whether a person should be accused. The prosecution detention is to ensure the first court appearance of the accused person.

First court hearing

In principle, the prosecutor determines what Link opens in new windowmeasure to prevent evasion of prosecution is to be imposed on the defendant. But if the prosecutor decides that the Link opens in new windowmeasure to prevent evasion of prosecution should be detention or house arrest, the prosecutor files such a request to the court and ensures that the defendant appears before the court.

Detention or release

If the defendant is brought to court, only the court can decide whether the Link opens in new windowmeasure to prevent evasion of prosecution will be detention or house arrest, or whether the detainee must be released.

Preparation of the case by the prosecution

When the investigation is completed, the investigating officer sends the collected evidence to a prosecutor. The prosecutor examines the evidence and decides whether the assumption that a crime has been committed has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Only then can the prosecutor file charges in court. Otherwise, the prosecutor dismisses the case.

Preparation of the case by the defence

Once they are informed of the charges, the defendant and the defence lawyer can produce proof in the defendant’s favour. After the end of the investigation, if requested by the defendant and the defence lawyer, the investigating officer must make all the collected evidence available to them and give them enough time to examine the evidence.

My rights during the investigation

Please note that the stages “arrest”, “first court hearing” and “detention” are possible but not necessary. Follow the links below to find out more about your rights at each stage.

Investigation (including bringing charges and questioning) (1)

What will I be told about what’s happening?

If enough evidence is found against you, the investigating officer will call you and notify you in writing of the crime which he is accusing you of. Immediately after that, the officer must advise you of your rights during the investigation. You will sign a document stating that you have been informed of your rights.

Will an interpreter be provided if I don’t speak the language?

Yes. You may refuse to sign the paper notifying you of the charge if an interpreter has not been provided to you. The interpreter will assist you during the entire investigation. You do not have to pay for the interpreter.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

When calling to notify you of the charges, the investigating officer is required to tell you that you can come with a lawyer. The investigating officer must give you enough time to contact a lawyer. Link opens in new windowThe Criminal Procedure Code determines when you must have defence. For your choice of lawyer and right to free legal advice, see Link opens in new windowhere. You are entitled to see and talk with your lawyer in private. You can have an interpreter if you do not speak the language.

Will I be asked for information? Should I provide information?

As soon as you are told about the charges, the investigating officer will question you. You can either speak or remain silent in connection with the charges. You can also provide explanations later at any time during the investigation.

What happens if I say something which is bad for my case?

Your confession could lead to a lighter penalty. Keeping silent cannot make your situation worse. The court cannot convict you on the basis of your confession only.

I am from another country. Do I have to be present during the investigation?

Being a defendant, you should be available to the investigating authorities. For that purpose, a measure to prevent evasion of prosecution can be imposed on you. An investigation can be held in your absence from the country when:

  • your place of residence is unknown;
  • you cannot be summoned for other reasons;
  • having been summoned, you did not appear and or give any valid reasons for not doing so.

In those cases, a duty defence lawyer will be allocated to you under the procedure describedLink opens in new window here

You can be questioned by video-link if you are out of the country and that would not hinder the investigation. In that interrogation, you will have the same rights as those outlined earlier in this factsheet.

Can I be sent back to my home country?

Yes, but under the conditions specified in the Link opens in new windowCriminal Procedure Code. You will need a lawyer’s advice.

Will I be held in custody or be released?

You may be held in custody. For more detailed information see First court hearing (3) and Detention or release (4).

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

You can if you are not held in custody but you should inform the investigating authority. If they think that there is a risk of your evading investigation, you may be banned from leaving the country.

Will I be asked for fingerprints, samples of my DNA (e.g. hair, saliva) or other bodily fluids?

You can be asked for such samples if they cannot be obtained in any other way. You must provide them. If you refuse, they will be taken by force with the court’s permission. If sample taking requires penetration of your body, it is performed by a doctor. You have the right to be informed about the procedure by the investigating officer.

Can there be a body search?

The investigating officer can order a body search to collect evidence or seize objects that may hinder the investigation or help you run away. The search should be sanctioned by a warrant of the court or would require subsequent court approval. You are entitled to see both the search protocol and the court decision.

Can my home, business premises, car etc. be searched?

The answer is the same as above.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

You can plead guilty during the first interrogation after you hear what you are accused of. About confessing and your rights in that context, see the information earlier in this factsheet.

Can the charges be changed before the trial?

If new evidence is collected, the charges can be changed. You should be notified immediately of any new charges and, questioned in that connection.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

Yes, unless provided for otherwise under an effective international agreement to which Bulgaria is a party.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

Yes, whether or not you wish this.

Arrest (including European Arrest Warrant) (2)

What will I be told about what’s happening?

The arrest (police detention) is ordered by a police officer. You may not be held for more than 24 hours. The grounds for detention are specified in the arrest warrant. You have the right to know the grounds, see the warrant and sign it.. The police authorities should release you as soon as there is no longer a reason for your detention.

Will an interpreter be provided if I don’t speak the language?

If you don’t speak the language, you are entitled to know the reasons for your arrest right away. An interpreter will be provided for free.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

You can contact a lawyer from the moment of your arrest. For more details see Link opens in new windowhere

Will I be asked for information? Should I provide information?

You may be asked to provide information in connection with the detention. You may but don’t have to provide information.

What happens if I say something which is bad for my case?

At that stage, any information provided by you is not accepted as evidence. Therefore, it cannot be used against you. Only the information provided by you during an interrogation held once you know the charges can serve as evidence. For more details see Investigation (incl. bringing charges and questioning) (1).

Can I contact a family member or a friend?

You can. The police officer must immediately notify a person suggested by you of your arrest.

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

You are entitled to medical aid if you need it. The police will get a doctor for you.

Can I contact my Embassy if I am from another country?

You can contact the consular office of your country. The detaining authority should immediately read that right to you.

Can there be a body search?

After you are arrested, there will be a body search. The court should later give its approval for the personal effects found on you to be used as evidence. You have the right to see the search protocol.

Can I appeal?

You can challenge the legality of the police detention by appealing before the court. The court will immediately decide your appeal.

What happens if I am arrested under a European Arrest Warrant?

If a Member State issues a European Arrest Warrant against you, you can be detained in another Member State and turned over to the issuing State after a hearing by a judge. You are entitled to a lawyer and an interpreter, if you need one, at the hearing.

First court hearing (3)

Why does the first court hearing take place?

When you are told about the charges against you as “a defendant”, the prosecutor may ask that you be held in custody on remand, or placed under house arrest, as a measure to prevent evasion of prosecution. Each of these two measures is imposed by the court as proposed by the prosecutor. As such a measure cannot happen in your absence, you should be brought to court which will decide on the measure.

Who plays what role?

The prosecutor’s role is to ensure that you appear before the court. While you are held by the police, the prosecutor can extend your detention but for not more than 72 hours. The only purpose of that detention is to secure your appearance before the court within those 72 hours. The court will hear you out, examine the collected evidence and decide, pursuant to the law, whether to detain or release you.

What will I be told about what’s happening?

You have the right to be told by the prosecutor why you are detained and when you will be brought to court.

Will an interpreter be provided if I don’t speak the language?

If you don’t speak the language, you can have an interpreter, free of charge, at the court hearing.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

You can contact a lawyer before the first court hearing. For the choice of a lawyer and your right to free legal advice, see Link opens in new windowhere.

Will I be asked for information? Should I provide information?

The court will ask you to confirm your personal details. You have the right to be heard by the court as to whether you should be detained or released. Your lawyer will give you advice about what to say.

What happens if I say something which is bad for my case?

At that stage, any information provided by you is not accepted as evidence. Therefore, whatever you may say cannot be used against you.

Will I get information about the evidence against me?

Both you and your lawyer have the right to see the evidence on which the prosecutor has asked for your detention. You will have enough time to examine the evidence before the court hearing.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

The court will ask to see your criminal record no matter what you want.

Detention or release (4)

What will I be told about what’s happening?

After the court examines the collected material and hears out the prosecutor, your lawyer and yourself, you will know the court’s decision at the same court session.

At the first hearing, the court can:

At that hearing, the court will not decide on how well-founded the charges against you are.

Can I contact a family member or a friend?

If the court orders that you be held in custody, your family will be notified immediately.

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

If you are held in custody, you are entitled to medical aid when you need it.

Can I contact my Embassy if I am from another country?

If you are detained, the court will order that the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs be notified immediately so that it can contact the consular office of your country.

Can I appeal?

You can appeal against the court decision on your detention or release within 3 days from the day it is made. The Court of Appeal will consider your appeal within 7 days from the pronouncement of the first instance decision. Its decision will be final.

Preparation of the case by the prosecution (5)

What is the purpose of this stage?

This stage comes after the investigation is completed (for more about the investigation see here). The purpose is for the prosecutor to examine the collected evidence and decide whether the assumption that a crime has been committed has been proven beyond any doubt. Only then can the case be taken to court to start a criminal process.

Who has a leading role?

The prosecutor. At this stage, the prosecutor decides whether to take the case to court. Also, the prosecutor can terminate pre-trial proceedings when that is provided for by the law. Then the case is not taken to court. Further, the prosecutor can suspend pre-trial proceedings if allowed by law until the reasons for suspension are no longer valid and then the proceedings are resumed. If the prosecutor finds anything incorrect in the way the investigation material is examined by the defendant, the prosecutor can refer the case back to the investigating officer to correct it or can do that himself.

How will I know what’s happening?

If the charges against you are filed in court, the court will send you a copy of the indictment. If the prosecutor terminates or suspends the proceedings, the prosecutor will send you a copy of the decision.

Can I appeal?

You can appeal, before the court, against the prosecutor’s decision of termination within 7 days from the receipt of the copy. The court of first instance will examine the appeal within 7 days from the day it is filed. The court’s decision can be appealed before the Court of Appeal which will make a final decision. You can also appeal, before the court, against the prosecutor’s decision of suspension. Then the court’s decision will be final.

Will I get any further information?

Where the prosecutor finds anything wrong in the way you examined the investigation materials and refers the case back to the investigating officer to correct the breach or corrects it himself, you have the right to be informed of those further acts.

Preparation of the case by the defence (6)

What is the purpose of this stage?

The purpose is for you and your lawyer to examine all the evidence collected during the investigation, after it is completed, including material that is in your favour. Thus you will know what evidence would support the prosecutor in filing charges against you in court. That will help you and your lawyer to organize your defence during the trial.

How will I know what’s happening?

When the investigation is over and if you, or your lawyer, so request, the investigating officer, before sending the collected material to the prosecutor, will let you and your lawyer know the place, date and time for you to examine the evidence. You and your lawyer are entitled to have enough time to do that.

Will an interpreter be provided if I don’t speak the language?

If you don’t speak the language, you should examine the evidence in the presence of an interpreter. You don’t have to pay for the translation.

Will I be asked for information? Should I provide information?

At that stage, you will not be questioned and don’t have to provide any information on the case.

What information will I get?

You can see all the collected evidence and read all witness testimonies. Your lawyer will explain to you the meaning of the evidence collected.

What are my rights after I see the evidence?

Assisted by your lawyer, you can ask for new evidence and make comments on, or objections to, any acts related to the investigation. The investigating officer will record your requests, comments and objections while the prosecutor will decide whether or not they are justified.

What happens if my requests, comments and objections are justified?

The prosecutor will instruct the investigating officer to take further action about the investigation. You have the right to be notified of such action and new evidence, if any, under the procedure described so far.

Measures to prevent evasion of prosecution (7)

Coercive measures may be imposed on you if it can be reasonably assumed, on the basis of the evidence, that you have committed the crime you are accused of. The measures aim to prevent you from going into hiding, committing a new offence or hindering the enforcement of a possible sentence.

Measures to prevent evasion of prosecution are:

  • Signing - you assume the obligation to not leave your place of residence without permission of the competent authority.
  • Bail – you pay a certain amount of cash or securities. If you go into hiding, that amount is seized and a more severe measure is imposed on you.
  • House arrest – you are prohibited from leaving your home without permission.
  • Custody on remand – you are forcefully kept in isolation.

A person is held in custody on remand on police premises or in prison.

You have the right to know, against your signature, of the measure to prevent evasion of prosecution against you. Signing and bail are imposed by the prosecutor. House arrest and custody on remand are determined by the court as requested by the prosecutor. The measure is based on the gravity of the charge, the evidence and your personal status. It can be decided, on the basis of those factors, not to impose any such preventive measure on you.

No measure preventing evasion of prosecution can be imposed in your absence. The court has to consider any application filed by you for changing the measures “custody on remand” and “house arrest” to more lenient ones.

Police arrest and detention ordered by a prosecutor for up to 72 hours are preparatory measures and are not, by law, measures to prevent evasion of prosecution.

Ban on leaving Bulgaria (8)

If you are charged with a crime, punishable by imprisonment for more than 5 years, a prosecutor may ban you from leaving Bulgaria without their permission. The border checkpoints will be immediately notified of the ban. The measure is aimed to prevent you from evading the investigation.

You or your lawyer can request the prosecutor to allow you to leave the country once for a fixed period of time. The prosecutor will reply within three days from the date of receipt of your request. If it is denied, you are entitled to appeal before the court. The court will immediately consider your request without a hearing. The court may confirm the prosecutor’s denial or permit you to leave the country for a certain period. That decision will be final.

In the same way, you and your lawyer can request the court to lift completely the ban on leaving Bulgaria. The court will do so if it decides that there is no risk that you will go into hiding abroad.

In the above court procedures, the grounds of the charges against you will not be considered.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCriminal Procedure Code

Link opens in new windowMinistry of the Interior Act

Link opens in new windowExtradition and European Arrest Warrant Act

Link opens in new windowRegulations on the Enforcement of the Ministry of the Interior Act

Last update: 13/03/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

3 - My rights in court

Where and how will the trial be held?

Link opens in new windowThe Criminal Procedure Code defines whether the court of first instance to hear your case will be a district or a regional court. For more information on courts, visit the Link opens in new windowSupreme Judicial Council website.

In principle, the trial is public. However, it is possible for the entire trial or individual hearings to be held behind closed doors. That is done to protect state secrets, public morals or the secret identity of a protected witness.

Depending on the gravity of the charge, the case will be decided by a judge or a panel of one judge and two jurors. Most serious crimes cases are handled by a panel of 2 judges and 3 jurors. The judge and jurors have equal votes in the process.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

That is possible if, during the trial, new facts unknown to the investigating authorities until then, are proven to support the charge.  But new charges can be brought up only when:

  • serious changes of the facts described in the original charges are needed;
  • even without such changes, the new charges concern graver crimes.

If there is a new charge, you may ask to prepare for it before the trial goes on.

If you plead guilty to any charge, you may get a lighter sentence. But the court cannot pass judgement on the basis of your confession only.

What are my rights during the trial?

If you are accused of a crime punishable by imprisonment of more than 5 years, you must attend the trial. If you come from another country and your presence is mandatory, the trial can be held without you only under the conditions specified Link opens in new windowhere. In those cases, a duty solicitor will be allocated to you under the procedure specified Link opens in new windowhere.

In principle, participation in a trial by video-link is not allowed. If the court deems that the truth would not be hindered, the court can only question you by video-link – and only if you are outside the country. Mandatory participation means your physical presence during the entire trial. If your participation is not mandatory, you have the right to be present. If you do not speak the language, you can get an interpreter free of charge.

Link opens in new windowThe Criminal Procedure Code specifies the cases when you must have legal defence. About your choice of a lawyer and right to free legal aid, see Link opens in new windowhere. You can change your lawyer. If you are detained, you can see and talk to your lawyer in private. You can be helped by an interpreter if you do not speak the language.

You may, but do not have to, speak during the trial. Even if you say something which is not true, that will not have any bad consequences for you. But you should confirm your personal details.

What are my rights in relation to the evidence against me?

You can challenge the evidence produced against you. You can state that it is not admissible because it has not been legally collected or because, though admissible, it does not support the charge. Normally, evidence is challenged at the end of the trial when the lawyer presents the arguments of the defense. Admissibility of the evidence can be challenged in the course of the trial too.

You are entitled to ask for any evidence, admissible under the law, in your favour. You can request that defence witnesses be interviewed. You can ask for evidence to be produced at any time during the trial. Evidence obtained through a private detective is admissible if it is collected within the law. Your lawyer can estimate its value.  

You and your lawyer can put any questions to witnesses for the prosecution in their presence. More specific is the procedure of interviewing Link opens in new windowprotected witnesses. You can challenge what has been said by witnesses against you. Normally, that is done at the end of the trial when the lawyer presents the arguments of the defence.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

The court will collect information about your previous criminal convictions no matter whether you agree or not. If you are found guilty and have previous convictions, they may lead to a more severe penalty. The information should be current as of the close of the trial. Any previous convictions in another Member State will be taken into account if they have been previously recognized by a Bulgarian court.

What happens at the end of the trial?

If the court determines that the charge is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the court will find you guilty and punish you under the law. Otherwise, the court will declare you ‘not guilty’. 

Possible sentences:

  • Life imprisonment – with or without a right to substitution: imposed for the gravest crimes. Life imprisonment without a right to substitution may not be replaced by imprisonment for a definite term. Imprisonment for a definite term – 20 years maximum or, by exception, up to 30 years. The sentence is served in prison.
  • Probation for a definite term – includes measures of control and influence without depriving you of your freedom. Community service can be such a measure.
  • Seizure - your property or part of it is forcefully taken away from you. 
  • Fine – you have to pay a certain amount of money.
  • Deprivation, for a definite period, of the right to hold a certain position or practice a certain profession, the right to awards or military titles.
  • Public censure – your sentence is made public in an appropriate way.

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

As a private accuser, the victim will maintain the charge brought up by the public prosecutor and ask for your conviction. As a civil plaintiff, the victim will want you to be sentenced to pay for the damages caused by the crime. The victim will file a petition at the beginning of the trial and play those roles if the court decides so.

Interviewing a protected witness

Giving testimony may endanger the life or health of a witness or his/her family and friends. Then the court, if it is convinced that the danger is real, takes measures – at the request or with the consent of the witness - to urgently protect his/her safety. Not revealing a threatened witness’s identity can be such a measure.

If a protected witness with a secret identity is to testify, the court will interview him/her when the parties to the trial are not present. The law requires the court to take all possible precautions in order not to expose the identity of the witness. After the interview, the court will promptly provide you and your lawyer with duplicates of the unsigned witness statement. You and your lawyer can put your questions to the witness in writing.

Related links

Link opens in new windowhttps://www.lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2135512224Link opens in new windowCriminal Procedure Code

Link opens in new windowhttps://www.lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/1589654529Link opens in new windowCriminal Code

Link opens in new windowhttps://www.lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2135560660Link opens in new windowThe Judiciary Act

Link opens in new windowhttp://www.vss.justice.bg/bg/vlast/1.htmLink opens in new windowSupreme Judicial Council

Last update: 13/03/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 - My rights after the court makes its decision

Can I appeal?

Having found you “guilty” or “not guilty”, the court will issue a verdict which you will know at the end of the trial. Link opens in new windowThe Criminal Procedure Code  says when the court can dismiss a criminal case without issuing a verdict. Then the court makes a ruling. You can appeal against both the verdict and ruling.

The appeal must be in writing and bear your signature. It is submitted through the court of first instance to the court of appeal. If the first instance is a district court, the court of appeal will be a regional court. Verdicts and rulings of a regional court are appealed before an appellate court. More about courts see on the Link opens in new windowSupreme Judicial Council website. Appeals against verdicts are filed within 15 days from the date they are pronounced, rulings – within 7 days from the day they are made known.  

In the appeal, you can complain about conclusions of the court concerning facts it found proven, application of relevant laws and unfair penalty. No matter how many, and what complaints are made, the court of appeal will decide whether the entire verdict is correct or not.

What happens if I appeal?

Having received your appeal, the court of first instance will send copies of it to the prosecutor and the other parties to the trial. With its reasons for the verdict, the same court will refer the case with the appeal to the court of appeal. If the court has ordered you to be held in custody on remand as a Link opens in new windowmeasure to prevent evasion of prosecution the appeal will not lead to your automatic release. But you can request the court of appeal to change that measure to a more lenient one. The court will decide your appeal at a separate hearing.

There is no deadline for the court of appeal to set a hearing date. That depends on when the reasons for the verdict can be prepared and on the court of appeal’s workload.

You can produce new evidence to the court of appeal because that court can find new facts. The rules of proof valid for the first instance trial apply here too.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

You can, but do not have to, attend the hearing. You and your lawyer can make an oral statement on the complaints in the appeal. The other parties present can say what they think of the appeal.

The court of appeal may:

  • decide to reverse the verdict and refer the case for re- examination by the prosecutor or the court of first instance.
  • reverse the verdict of the court of first instance and issue a new verdict.
  • decide to change the verdict, to a lighter sentence.
  • decide to reverse the verdict and dismiss the criminal proceedings.
  • suspend the criminal proceedings in the cases provided for in the Link opens in new windowCriminal Procedure Code
  • decide to confirm the verdict of the court of first instance.

What happens if the appeal is successful/unsuccessful?

If you are not happy with the verdict or decision of an appellate court, you can appeal before the Supreme Court of Cassation. If the court of appeal is a regional court, you can file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Cassation only if the regional court has issued a new verdict.

The Supreme Court of Cassation does not find new facts and therefore does not admit new evidence. That court can only say whether the laws have been applied correctly and the penalty imposed is fair. The Supreme Court of Cassation will consider only the complaints set out in the appeal to it.

You are entitled to compensation only when your conviction is overturned and a court of appeal issues a new verdict of “not guilty”. For more details, see the special compensation act Link opens in new windowhere. If, in spite of the appeal, the conviction remains, even with a lighter sentence, it will appear on your criminal record. A verdict of acquittal will not be recorded. 

Once you have made use of all the possibilities of appealing before a court of appeal and the Supreme Court of Cassation, further appeal is not possible. The verdict will become final – if not appealed against, or appealed against but after the deadline, or after the Supreme Court of Cassation has pronounced its decision.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back there after the trial?

You can be sent back. In some cases, that can happen even if you do not agree. Your transfer will not automatically follow once your sentence becomes effective. A procedure described in detail in the Link opens in new windowCriminal Procedure Code must take place. You will need legal advice.

If I am convicted, can I be tried again for the same crime?

The law does not allow that you be tried for a crime for which you have already been convicted. The prohibition also applies when you have been convicted in another Member State.

Information about the charges/conviction

Information about the charges against you will be held in the police records. If you are acquitted, you can ask the police to delete that information.

Information about the conviction will be added to your criminal record. It will be held by the respective district court. If you were born outside Bulgaria, your criminal record will be kept at the Ministry of Justice.

No criminal record is deleted until you are 100 years old and then it is microfilmed and destroyed. You do not need to agree for your criminal record to be stored. You are not entitled to object to the storage of that information either.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCriminal Procedure Code

Link opens in new windowAct on the Liability of the State and Municipalities for Damages  (Caused to Citizens)

Link opens in new windowOrdinance No.8 of 26 February, 2008 on the Functions and Organization of Work of Criminal Conviction Records Offices

Last update: 13/03/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Minor road traffic offences

How are minor road traffic offences dealt with?

Minor road traffic offences related to speeding, parking etc. are treated as administrative offences. They are dealt with administratively.  Possible penalties may be either a fine or deprivation of the right to drive a motor vehicle for a fixed period of time. For graver offences, both penalties may be imposed.

Offences are detected and sanctioned by the traffic police. You can appeal against a statement of an administrative sanction applied to you before the respective district court within 7 days from the date on which the statement is delivered to you. You have the right to be defended by a lawyer. Fines of up to BGN 50 are not subject to appeal.

A district court may confirm or lift a sanction. You can appeal against a decision of a district court before the respective administrative court. Its decision is final. More about courts see on the Link opens in new windowSupreme Judicial Council website.

The same procedure applies to offences committed by nationals of other Member States.

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

These offences will not appear on your criminal record.

Related links

Link opens in new windowAdministrative Offences and Sanctions Act

Link opens in new windowRoad Traffic Act

Link opens in new windowRegulations on the Enforcement of the Road Traffic Act

Last update: 13/03/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница чешки е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Czech Republic

Under the Constitution of the Czech Republic punishment may be imposed on you only in accordance with the law and in the manner laid down by the relevant laws. These laws are Link opens in new windowthe Criminal Code , Link opens in new windowthe Act on Juvenile Justice, and  Link opens in new windowthe Criminal Procedure Code, which establish the rules for criminal proceedings, including specific conditions for exercising and enforcing your rights.

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected or accused of a crime. For information on minor offences like road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Summary of the criminal process

The following is a summary of the normal stages in the criminal process.

1.             Preparatory process

The preparatory process is the first stage of the criminal process. It has two parts:

  • The procedures of the authorities responsible for the criminal process prior to the start of a criminal prosecution, known as the examination stage; and
  • The investigation stage, the part of the criminal prosecution from its start to the filing of a charge or its termination in a different manner (see )Link opens in new window#Podstránka_2Link opens in new window.

2.             Preliminary discussion of the charge

During the preliminary discussion the court will examine whether the case was properly clarified in the preparatory process and whether the charge provides a proper basis for further proceedings.  It also decides whether the court has jurisdiction to decide the case.

3.             The trial itself

This is the most important part of the criminal process. Evidence is examined and a decision in the case is made. During this stage of the criminal process the defendant(s) and any witnesses and the injured party or parties are questioned in court. The trial is public, oral and is conducted in Czech. If you do not speak Czech, you have the right to an interpreter.

4.             Appeal proceedings

The defendant, his family, lawyer, public prosecutor or the injured party have the right to appeal  within 8 days.  If an appeal is lodged, the court of appeal reviews the decision of the court of first instance

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 – Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 – My rights during the investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

  • Examination
  • Investigation
  • Custody
  • Decision in the preparatory process, a charge
  • Abbreviated preparatory process

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

  • Court trial
  • Sentences; rights of the victim

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the court makes its decision

Link opens in new window5 – Traffic and other minor offences

Related links

Link opens in new windowCzech Ministry of Justice

Link opens in new windowCzech Ministry of Interior

Link opens in new windowCzech Bar Association

Link opens in new windowInformation on Human Rights

Link opens in new windowLegal information for all

Last update: 17/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

1 - Getting legal advice

This factsheet tells you in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer, how to find a lawyer, and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay. It will also tell you what a lawyer will do for you.

Finding a lawyer

Only a lawyer entered in the register of lawyers maintained by the Link opens in new windowCzech Bar Association (CBA) may defend a person in a criminal case.

If you need a defence lawyer contact the Link opens in new windowCzech Bar Association (Link opens in new windowhttp://www.cak.cz/or contact one of the lawyers on the register directly).

What if I do not choose a lawyer?

If you do not choose a lawyer you must defend yourself.

In some cases, you are obliged to have a defence lawyer and the court will appoint a defence lawyer for you if you do not choose one within a specified time limit. The following are situations in which a defence lawyer is required:

  • if you are in custody or under observation in a medical facility,
  • if your competence to perform legal acts is restricted,
  • if you are a fugitive,
  • if you are under 18),
  • if you are physically or mentally handicapped and there is doubt about your competence to defend yourself properly,
  • if you could be sentenced to more than 5 years in prison,
  • if simplified proceedings are to be initiated against you as the detained person,
  • in proceedings where you might be required to undergo preventive medical treatment  (apart from treatment for alcoholism),
  • in some proceedings with a foreign element.  .

Who pays the lawyer?

It is the accused person who pays for the lawyer’s services. If the court appoints a lawyer for you, the state pays for the defence. The state also pays if you are entitled to a free defence.

How much is the lawyer’s fee?

Payments for the services of a defence lawyer are specified by a contract between you and your defence lawyer or by the Link opens in new windowAct on Lawyers’ Fees (if you don’t have a contract).

When are you entitled to a free defence?

If you do not have enough money to pay the costs of your defence, you are entitled to a reduced fee or to a free defence (both referred to as 'free defence'). A judge, or the chairman of the court will decide your application, based on information about your financial situation. This application must be submitted by you during the preparatory process through the public prosecutor or during the court proceedings.

You may be awarded a free defence even without such an application if the evidence suggests that it is appropriate.

Related links

Link opens in new windowAct on Lawyers’ Fees

Last update: 17/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

What are the stages of a criminal investigation?

The preparatory process is intended to examine whether a crime was committed and who the likely perpetrator was (the examination stage) and then to secure evidence and prepare the case for court (the investigation stage).

The preparatory process is conducted by the Police who are supervised in their work by the public prosecutor who decides whether the process has been carried out properly.

Some actions may be undertaken only by the public prosecutor or are subject to his decision (such as termination of the preparatory process), while the judge has the authority to decide about some other actions (such as a suspect being taken into custody, arrest, house search, and wiretapping).

Click on the links below to find more detailed information about the stages of the investigation pre-trial.

Procedure before the start of criminal prosecution – examination (1)

What is the purpose of the examination?

In order to establish the nature of a crime and who committed it, the police may:

  • take statements
  • obtain expert opinions
  • consider documents
  • search for objects and search the scene of the crime
  • make police records, take fingerprints, body measurements, search suspects
  • conduct urgent acts
  • detain suspects
  • use other investigative procedures as appropriate.

The examination ends with a decision to start criminal prosecution of a specific person or in various other ways (adjournment, temporary adjournment, submitting the case for a non-criminal disposal).

What are the time limits for this stage?

The time limit is two, three, or six months depending on the seriousness of the case. If it is not possible to complete the examination, the public prosecutor may alter or extend the time limit based on a written justification.

What will I be told about what is happening?

You will not be informed about what is happening in this stage until you need to be involved directly in the procedure.

Will an interpreter be provided if I do not speak the language?

In the event that you are asked to provide an explanation of certain events an interpreter will be brought in by the police and will interpret the questions, your answers and will then interpret the written report before you are asked to sign it.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

You can invite a lawyer to be present for the explanation. The participation of a lawyer at this stage is not compulsory and a lawyer will not be appointed for you if you have not chosen to contact one yourself. You can seek the lawyer’s advice but not on how to answer a question that has already been asked. You must get your own interpreter at this stage to assist you and your lawyer.

Will I be asked for information? Should I provide information?

At this stage the police may ask you for your explanation of the facts which they are investigating. It is your duty to provide a true explanation. You may refuse to provide an explanation if you (or a person related to you) risk being prosecuted on the basis of your statement. You may also refuse if you would break a duty of confidentiality.

What happens if I say something which is bad for my case?

Your statement will be used only in order to decide whether criminal prosecution will be started against a specific person for a specific crime. If criminal proceedings are commenced, your statement will be considered witness testimony only if it was given early and could not have been repeated later. Also, it must have been given before a judge. Otherwise, your testimony must be given again, at a later stage of criminal proceedings (as a rule, before a court).

Can I contact a family member or friend?

At your request the police will inform one of your relatives or a friend that you have been detained, provided that this does not hamper the police investigation, and that it is not excessively difficult.

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

The police will arrange for a medical examination and obtain a doctor’s statement concerning your medical condition at the time you are presented for examination or detained. You must be immediately released if the doctor so prescribes and the police, if required, will take you to a medical facility.

Can I contact my embassy if I am a citizen of another country?

You can demand the right to contact your embassy and have discussions in private with an Embassy representative at each stage of the criminal proceedings.

I live in another country. Do I have to be present during the investigation?

A judge can order that you are heard before you leave the country, if that is essential to the case and will prevent evidence being lost. You can also be heard after you leave the country if a request is made to the relevant authorities of the country in which you live.

Can I be sent back to my home country?

Not at this stage.

Will I be held in custody or be released?

If your presence is required, you will be presented to the court or detained. If you are not subsequently charged or are not presented to the judge within 48 hours from being detained for a decision about custody, you must be released.

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

Yes.

Will I be asked for fingerprints, samples of my DNA (e.g. hair, saliva), or other bodily fluids?

If this is required to establish your identity or verify whether there are traces on your body from the crime, or if this is required for evidence, your fingerprints , a specimen of DNA, blood, biological material, or the outer measurements of your body, may be taken, or a body search, or similar may take place.

Any physical resistance on your part may be overcome with the consent of the public prosecutor. If you refuse, you can be fined up to CZK 50,000.

If the information which is acquired in this way is no longer required for further proceedings or for the purpose of preventing, searching for and detecting criminal activities, it will be destroyed.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

If your guilty plea is reliable, it can constitute a ground for commencing criminal prosecution or for a decision on summary proceedings.

Will I receive information about witnesses who have testified against me and about other evidence?

At this stage of the proceedings you will not receive any of this information.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

Yes, the police will obtain a copy of your criminal record.

Start of criminal prosecution – investigation (2)

What is the purpose of this stage?

During the investigation the police look for and examine evidence important to the case. The police will look for evidence that will favour or be detrimental to the accused.

What is the time limit for an investigation?

The time limit is two, three or six months depending on the seriousness of the case. The time limit may be extended by the public prosecutor based on written reasons provided by the police. However the prosecutor must verify the reasons in each case at least once a month.

The police must proceed as quickly as possible. If you are adversely affected by a delay, you can ask the public prosecutor to resolve the problem. If the delays are caused by the public prosecutor, you can ask his or her superior to resolve the problem.

The accused person can also demand compensation for non-financial damage caused by delays in proceedings or also compensation for damages. When imposing a punishment the court will take any delays in this phase into account.

What will I be told about what is happening?

You will receive a ruling about the commencement of the criminal prosecution. This will contain a description of the act which you are accused of, its legal basis and the reasons. You can file an objection to this ruling within a time limit of three days and the public prosecutor will then make a decision about your objection.

You or your defence lawyer will be informed of the investigation procedures and you will have the right to participate in these, through your defence lawyer, to ask witnesses questions and propose evidence. You and your defence lawyer can be denied access to your file during the investigation, if there are legitimate reasons for doing so

Will an interpreter be provided if I do not speak the language?

During your examination, if you do not speak Czech you will be provided with an interpreter for a language you can speak or for your native language.

You will also be provided with an interpreter during the investigation procedures. In this stage, the police will allow you to participate and to ask questions if you want to.

At your request, you will be provided with a written translation of the ruling on the start of criminal prosecution, the ruling on custody or the ruling on the conditional suspension of criminal prosecution.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

This can be at any time and the confidentiality of the conversation must be ensured. An interpreter will be provided if requested by the lawyer. You may choose a lawyer yourself (see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1).

Will I be asked for information? Should I provide information?

You are entitled to express your opinion on the case and you also have the right not to say anything.

Can I raise objections against the examining police officer, the public prosecutor, or judge?

You can raise an objection against the police officer or the public prosecutor as well as against the minutes’ clerk, probation officer, court clerk, court expert, and interpreter, and against the judge if you believe that there is prejudice on their part – that is, if you believe that they have a personal conflict of interest in your case or in relation to any of the parties or their representatives, and cannot, therefore make impartial decisions.

In general terms, a person is also considered prejudiced if he or she has already contributed to the proceedings in a different procedural role. For example, a judge cannot pass judgement on guilt and decide on punishment if that judge has ruled in the preparatory process on custody, made a ruling about wiretapping, and so forth.

The person who first decides about your objection is the person whose prejudice you have objected to.

If you are not satisfied with that decision a complaint may be filed against that person’s decision within three days and a superior authority will then make a decision. The procedural decisions made by a prejudiced person may not be applied in the criminal proceedings.

What happens if I say something which is bad for my case?

Everything you say may be used in your favour or against you. Your testimony at this stage of the proceedings may be used as evidence.

Can I contact a family member or friend?

The police will decide whether you can contact your family or friends during the examination, detention and arrest. If you are in custody, you have the right to write letters (the letters are read by the Prison Service of the Czech Republic if you are in custody because of the danger that you might influence witnesses; and also by the public prosecutor who is authorised to censor your letters).

You are entitled to visitors once every two weeks while in prison but if you are in custody because of the danger that you might influence witnesses, someone else will be present during your visits.

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

If you are in custody you will be seen by the prison doctor who is obliged to provide you with proper medical care. If you are presented for examination or detained, see Link opens in new window#Podstránka_1here

Can I contact my embassy if I am a citizen of another country?

Yes, at any stage of the proceedings. Any meeting with a consular official is confidential. The court will, with your consent, inform your consulate that you have been taken into custody.

I am from another country. Must I be present during the investigation?

Your presence is not essential if your examination has taken place and you do not wish to be present at the investigation. If there is a danger of you fleeing, you will be placed in custody or be allowed to go free after making a written promise that you will return when summoned.

Can I be sent back to my home country?

Yes, provided the conditions are met for your extradition or delivery for criminal prosecution or to serve your sentence in a different country and such a procedure is not excluded by law.

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

Yes, but you are obliged to have a valid mailing address or otherwise be in contact with the authorities responsible for the criminal proceedings. Otherwise you could be arrested and placed in custody.

Will I be asked for fingerprints, samples of my DNA (for example, hair or saliva), or other bodily fluids? Can I be subjected to a body search?

If this is required, yes. You are obliged to obey such a summons.

Can my home, business premises, car, or other possessions be searched?

Yes, a house search can take place under an order issued by a judge. For other premises, this can be done under an order issued by the public prosecutor or police.

Can I plead guilty to all or some charges before the trial?

Yes, during the examination by the police.

Can a charge be changed before the start of legal proceedings?

No, only the legal description of the charge may be changed. Charging you with a different act must begin with a new resolution on the start of criminal prosecution.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

Yes. However this does not apply if criminal prosecution in the other Member State in your case ended in a verdict, was suspended, ended by approval or settlement or was submitted for review as an offence rather than as a crime.

Will I get information about the witnesses against me?

You can find out their identity and the contents of their testimony by examining the case file or if you or your defence lawyer are present during their examination. The identity of secret witnesses will not be disclosed to you.

Will I get information about other evidence against me?

Yes, as soon as you and your defence lawyer are allowed to examine the case file.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

Yes.

Custody (3)

Will I be held in custody or be released?

Only a person who has been charged may be taken into custody.

If you are handed over to the court with a petition to be taken to custody within 48 hours after your detention or 24 hours after your arrest, the court will decide whether you will be held in custody or not.

The reasons for custody may be:

  • a possibility that you could evade criminal prosecution or sentence (escape custody),
  • the possibility that you will obstruct the investigation, for instance by influencing witnesses (collusive custody),
  • or the possibility that you will complete the crime you had started or commit a new one (advance custody).

If the reasons for custody are not present or no longer exist, you will be released based on a decision by the public prosecutor.

You must also be released after the legal time limit expires. For collusive custody, the time limit is 3 months. For escape and advance custody, the limit is one year in cases of a possible sentence of up to 5 years, two years in cases with a possibility of a higher sentence, three years for particularly serious crimes, and four years if an exceptional sentence can be imposed for the crime.

However, of these time limits only one-third applies during the preparatory process and two-thirds is reserved for proceedings before a court.

Reasons for holding you in custody are examined continuously. However a new decision needs to be made by the prosecutor after you have spent three months in custody as well as 30 days from filing a charge and always every three months after the previous decision became effective.

How can I get released from custody?

You are always entitled to request release from custody fourteen days after the last custody decision came into force. However, if you can state other reasons in your request you can ask to be released at any time.

You have the right to propose that escape or advance custody be replaced by:

  • your written promise that you will lead a law-abiding life and that you will attend court when required to do so.
  • providing a monetary guarantee (bail) fixed by the court,
  • supervision by a probation officer
  • a guarantee made by an interested citizens’ association or other trustworthy person.

In the case of advance custody in certain crimes specified by the law, a monetary guarantee cannot be accepted. The monetary guarantee may be provided by a person other than you.

Decision in the preparatory process - a charge (4)

What is the purpose of this stage?

This stage ends the investigation of the criminal case and the public prosecutor decides about the next procedure:

  • whether to submit the case to another authority;
  • stop criminal prosecution;
  • conditionally stop criminal prosecution;
  • approve settlement; or
  • file a charge against you with the court.

What will I be told about what is happening?

The decision of the public prosecutor or the charge will be delivered to you. You are entitled to file an objection against:

  • the submission of the case against you
  • the suspension of criminal prosecution,
  • the conditional suspension of criminal prosecution and
  • a settlement.

A decision on your objection will be made by the superior public prosecutor.

Will an interpreter be provided if I do not speak Czech?

See Start of criminal prosecution – investigation (2).

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

See Link opens in new window#Podstránka_2Start of criminal prosecution – investigation (2).

Will I be held in custody or released?

If the reasons for custody continue and if the legal time limits for custody have not been exhausted, the filing of the charge does not affect the duration of custody.

Can the charge be changed before the trial?

The charge as well as the decision of the public prosecutor at this stage must be based on the facts which gave rise to the charge. However, the legal description may be changed if the public prosecutor decides that is appropriate

Can I be sentenced and can the punishment be determined without a trial?

In less serious cases the judge may deliver a criminal order to you which sets out a decision about your guilt and punishment, without hearing the case.

This criminal order can impose:

  • a conditional prison sentence or house arrest of one year,
  • community service,
  • a ban on certain activities for 5 years,
  • a financial penalty,
  • a residence ban of up to 5 years,
  • deportation for up to 5 years,
  • or a similar punishment.

If you do not object to the order within 8 days of receipt, it becomes effective and is enforceable. If your objection is made within the time limit or the criminal order cannot be delivered, a trial will be held. See Link opens in new windowFactsheet 3.

Will I get information about evidence against me?

The charge contains the evidence which the public prosecutor will present at the trial. Further evidence may be found in the case file or can appear during the hearing of the case.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

It will already be part of the file.

Abbreviated preparatory process (5)

The purpose of this stage

If a suspect is caught at the scene committing a crime for which he or she could be sentenced to less than 3 years in prison, or where it is likely that a trial could take place within 2 weeks, abbreviated proceedings can be held.

In these proceedings, the police will inform the suspect of the crime he or she is suspected of committing, without starting a criminal prosecution. If the abbreviated preparatory process ends within two weeks, the public prosecutor may file a petition to the court for punishment of the perpetrator.

What will I be told about what is happening?

You will be told about the details of the suspected crime by the start of your examination at the latest. You will be given information about your rights.

Will an interpreter be provided if I do not speak the language?

Yes, an interpreter will be present who speaks a language that you speak or your native language. The written petition for punishment will be translated.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

At any time, if you choose a lawyer. If you are not released from detention after your examination, a lawyer will be appointed by the court if you do not have one.

Will I be asked for information? Should I provide information?

See Start of criminal prosecution – investigation (2).

What happens if I say something which is bad for my case?

You can make your position worse, resulting in a verdict of guilty.

Can I contact a family member or friend? Can I see a doctor if I need one?

See Start of criminal prosecution – investigation (2).

Can I contact my Embassy if I am a citizen of another country?

See Start of criminal prosecution – investigation (2).

I am from another country. Do I have to be present during the investigation?

If you are released, it is not necessary to be present. However, it is good to stay in contact with the authorities responsible for the criminal proceedings and provide a valid mailing address so your absence is not considered as an escape which you could be punished for..

Can I be sent back to my home country?

Yes, if the court decides that the punishment is to deport you.

Will I be held in custody or be released?

It there are reasons for custody, you will be placed in custody. See Custody (3).

Will I be asked for fingerprints, samples of my DNA (for instance hair or saliva), or other bodily fluids? Can there be a body search? Can my home, business premises, car, and other possessions be searched?

See Link opens in new window#Podstránka_2Start of criminal prosecution – investigation (2).

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

Yes, during the first examination or when the court hears your case in abbreviated proceedings.

Can the charge be changed before the trial?

New facts cannot be added to the charge. However, the legal basis can be changed.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

See Start of criminal prosecution – investigation (2).Link opens in new window#Podstránka_2

Will I get information about the witnesses against me? Will I get information about other evidence against me?

Yes, when you are given access to your case file (usually at the start of the abbreviated legal proceedings) or during the examination procedures if you are present.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

Yes.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCriminal Procedure Code

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice

Link opens in new windowLegal information for all

Link opens in new windowCriminal Code

Link opens in new windowAct No. 273/2008 on Police of the Czech Republic

Link opens in new windowVienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24.4.1963

Link opens in new windowAct No. 101/2000 Coll. on Personal Data Protection

Last update: 17/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

3 - My rights during the trial

This Factsheet describe your rights during the trial.

Fundamental Rights

During criminal proceedings you are entitled to:

  • expect the authorities responsible for criminal proceedings to work as quickly as possible and to fully comply with your rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • demand that the authorities responsible for criminal proceedings proceed so that there can be no reasonable doubt about the facts essential for a proper decision to be made. They must use equal care in assessing the evidence in your favour and to your detriment;
  • be instructed by the authorities responsible for criminal proceedings about your rights and have the opportunity to have those rights fully enforced;
  • express an opinion about all charges against you and the evidence supporting them;
  • refuse to testify;
  • examine files, get extracts and take notes, and make copies at your own cost;
  • participate in the discussion of the case during the trial and public sessions held during an appeal;
  • make a closing statement during the trial and in a public session during the appeal as well as the right to present a final petition;
  • present circumstances and evidence for your defence;
  • make petitions (on examining evidence and the methods of decision) and file applications;
  • present remedies (ordinary, that is a complaint; an appeal, a protest, and extraordinary petition for a renewal of proceedings; initiate a complaint against a breach of law; and an appeal
  • choose a defence lawyer (if you do not choose one yourself, one can be chosen by a family member or other participating person) and seek his or her advice  even during actions which the authority responsible for the criminal proceedings alone performs;
  • speak with your defence lawyer in private if you are in custody or serving a prison sentence;
  • demand that you are questioned in the presence of your defence lawyer and that he or she participates in other parts of the preparatory process;
  • use your native language or another language you speak before authorities responsible for  criminal proceedings, if you declare that you do not speak Czech.

Court trial

Preliminary discussion of the charge

If a charge is filed, it will be examined by the presiding judge who will consider whether a preliminary discussion is required, or whether a trial can be ordered.

The outcome of the preliminary discussion of the charge may be a decision of the court on:

  • submitting the case for a decision on jurisdiction;
  • submitting the case to another authority (if this is not a crime but could be an offence, etc.);
  • stopping criminal prosecution;
  • suspending criminal prosecution;
  • returning the case to the public prosecutor for further investigation;
  • conditionally suspending criminal prosecution or approving a settlement

Where will the trial be held?

Depending on the seriousness of the crime the trial of first instance will be held before the district or regional court with jurisdiction in the place where the crime was committed, or the domicile of the accused, or the place where the crime was discovered.

Will the trial be in public?

Yes, the trial is held in public. However the public may be excluded in some cases.

Who will decide the case?

A panel of judges or a single judge will decide the case..

Can I raise objections to the judge?

Yes, see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 2.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

The trial is held only to decide on the act described in the charge. However, should it become apparent that you have committed other acts, it may be decided during the preliminary discussion of the charge or at the end of the trial that the case will be returned to the public prosecutor for further investigation.

The revised charge will contain the new allegations. The court can decide that the act for which you are being tried should be charged more moderately or severely than the public prosecutor.

What happens if I plead guilty to all or some charges during the trial?

If you plead guilty, the court will still go on to examine and assess the evidence of those people who speak in your favour.

What are my rights during the trial?

See Link opens in new windowFundamental Rights at the beginning of this factsheet. Further specific rights exist that apply to specific procedural situations.

Do I have to be present at the trial? Can it be held without me?

The trial may be held in your absence, but not if:

  • you are in custody;
  • you are serving a prison sentence;
  • the case involves a crime for which you could be sentenced to imprisonment for more than  5 years  However you do not have to be present at the trial even for this type of case if you ask the court to hold the trial in your absence.

In cases where a defence is required (seeLink opens in new window Factsheet 1) the trial cannot be held without the presence of a defence lawyer.

If I live in another Member State can I participate by video conference?

It is not possible to participate in a trial in this manner.

Will I be present during the whole trial?

You will be present throughout the trial. You do not have to be present for procedures which take place outside the trial, however, you or your defence lawyer have the right to participate in these if you want to.

Will I get an interpreter if I do not understand what is happening?

Yes, see Link opens in new windowFundamental Rights at the beginning of this factsheet.

Must I have a lawyer?  Will a lawyer be provided for me? Can I change my lawyer?

The Criminal Procedure Code specifies the cases which require a defence. See Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1.

Can I or must I speak at the trial?

During the trial you are entitled to a defence, that is to defend yourself or do so through your defence lawyer. During the entire trial the court will allow you or your defence lawyer to express an opinion on all the procedural steps which take place.  You do not have to make use of your right to defend yourself and you can refuse to testify.

What are the consequences if I do not tell the truth during the trial?

As the accused, you are not obliged to tell the truth in court. However, if you intentionally state facts untruthfully in order to bring about the criminal prosecution of someone else, you may later be charged with libel.

What are my rights in relation to the evidence against me?

You are entitled to express an opinion on the evidence and propose additional evidence or propose evidence supporting your defence.

You will get the chance during a closing statement to express your opinion on the evidence after each individual piece of evidence has been examined.

What kind of evidence can I produce on my own behalf? Under what conditions?

In addition to your own testimony, you can propose evidence that could rebut or reduce your guilt, including for example hearing witnesses, challenging the evidence, identification of witnesses, crime scene reconstruction, hearing experts, documentary evidence, search, and so forth.

You are entitled to propose to the court that such evidence be examined. The court will decide whether to do so or not. As soon as the presiding judge declares the evidence complete, no further evidence can be presented in the trial.

Can I use a private detective to obtain evidence?

It is possible to use the services of a private detective. However, the detective must act in accordance with the law in order for the evidence which is obtained to be used during the trial. The private detective may not influence witnesses.

Can I ask witnesses to speak for me?

You can propose that a certain person is examined if you think the person’s evidence will benefit your case. But you cannot influence witnesses.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

Your criminal record may be taken into account during sentencing, provided that the conviction has not expired.

What will happen at the end of the trial?

The trial may end in the following ways:

  • the case may be returned to the public prosecutor for further investigation;
  • if the act is not a crime but could be an offence, the case may be transferred.  The criminal prosecution may be stopped;
  • the criminal prosecution may be stopped conditionally, or a settlement may be approved;
  • the court may decide on a guilty verdict or an acquittal.

Sentences, rights of the injured party

What sentence could I get?

Under the Criminal Code if you commit a crime you can be sentenced as follows:

  • imprisonment, which, unless the law specifically states otherwise, can be unconditional, conditional or conditional with supervision.  An exceptional sentence is also possible.  This is either   prison sentence of over twenty to thirty years, or a life sentence;
  • house arrest,
  • community service,
  • forfeiture of property,
  • financial penalty,
  • forfeiture of an item or other asset,
  • ban on certain activities,
  • residence ban,
  • ban on entry to sports, cultural and other social events,
  • loss of honorary titles or awards,
  • loss of military rank,
  • deportation.

What is the role of the victim (injured party) during the trial?

The victim, that is, the person who was injured, who sustained damage to property, his person, or other damage by a crime, is entitled to:

  • be represented by proxy; if the victim proves he or she lacks funds, free legal aid can be provided by a lawyer;
  • make petitions for further evidence;
  • examine files;
  • participate in the trial and a public session during an appeal;
  • express an opinion about the case before the end of the trial;
  • if the victim is entitled under the law to compensation for damages, and the verdict is guilty, the victim may to ask the court to require the accused make compensation. The petition must be made before the start of the presentation of evidence at the trial at the latest;
  • if the victim is in potential danger from the accused or the convicted person being set free, the victim is entitled to demand timely information that the accused has been released, has escaped, or other similar circumstances.

Related links

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice

Link opens in new windowCriminal Law for the General Public

Link opens in new windowAssistance to victims of crime

Last update: 17/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 - My rights after the court makes its decision

Can I appeal?

Yes, you can appeal the verdict in your case if there were mistakes in the findings which relate directly to you. You can appeal a verdict of guilty, the sentence and/or the compensation awarded, or you can appeal all findings of the court of first instance. You must file the appeal:

  • in writing;
  • with the court that issued the verdict;
  • within eight days from delivery of the copy of the verdict (if the copy is delivered to both you and your defence lawyer, the time limit is calculated from the later of the two delivery dates).

Your appeal must make clear which aspects of the verdict you are appealing, and also the specific flaws in the verdict and/or previous proceedings. You can also appeal without specific grounds by submitting an application to the presiding judge of the court of first instance, asking him or her to extend the time limit for submission of the specific grounds.

What are the grounds for an appeal?

You can file an appeal based on errors in any finding in the verdict which relate directly to you or because a particular finding was not included in the verdict. You can also base your appeal on new facts and evidence.

What happens if I appeal?

Until a decision is made by the appeal court, the verdict will not enter into force and/or become executable.  If you are in custody, you will not be released automatically just because you have lodged an appeal.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

The court of first instance examines whether your appeal contains all the information which is required.  If not, the court will ask you and your defence lawyer to remedy these flaws within a time limit of five days (eight days if you do not have a defence lawyer, and the presiding judge provides instructions directly to you).

A copy of the appeal and its grounds will be delivered to the other parties involved in the case and the entire case file will be presented to the court of appeal.

The superior regional court will decide an appeal against the verdict of a district court and the Supreme Court will decide an appeal against the verdict of a regional court.

After the start of the proceedings of the appeal court, the contested judgement will be presented and a report about the case will be submitted.

Then you will present the appeal and justify it. If neither you nor your defence lawyer is present, this will be done by the presiding judge.

Subsequently, the public prosecutor and anyone who may be directly affected by the decision of the court of appeal will present their arguments.

Once the petitions are presented, the court of appeal will examine the evidence necessary for making a decision about the appeal unless review of the evidence would be so extensive that this would mean duplicating the previous work of the court of first instance.

The court of appeals may:

  • reject the appeal (if the appeal is not reasonable, if it was delayed, filed by an unauthorised person, or similar reasons) but this is always done at a public hearing;
  • reject the appeal (if its contents do not meet the requirements for an appeal);
  • interrupt the criminal prosecution;
  • overrule the contested verdict or a part of it and,:
  • decide to present the case for a decision about  the court’s jurisdiction;
  • transfer the case to a different authority;
  • stop the criminal prosecution (if the court of first instance should have already done so);
  • interrupt criminal prosecution (if the court of first instance should have already done so);

It may also overrule the contested verdict due to fundamental flaws in the proceedings;

  • flaws in the verdict (ambiguity, incomplete findings in the case);
  • doubts over the accuracy of the findings in the case or the evidence has to be replicated;
  • breach of the provisions of the Criminal Code;
  • inadequacy of the sentence;
  • an incorrect  decision about the entitlement of the victim.

After it is overruled the appeals court either:

  • returns the case to the court of first instance;
  • decides its verdict on the case always at a public hearing.
  • stops the criminal prosecution

What happens if the appeal is unsuccessful?

Unless the prosecutor appealed against the verdict, the court of appeal cannot make a decision which makes your situation worse.

When is the conviction final?

If the court of appeals does not return the case to the court of first instance, its decision ends the case and becomes final the moment the decision is declared. The verdict of the court of first instance also becomes final unless an appeal is filed against it promptly.

Once the verdict comes into force you can file:

  • an extraordinary appeal;
  • a motion with the Minister of Justice to file a complaint for breach of the law to the Supreme Court;
  • application for permission to renew proceedings;

If the first decision is overturned, will I get any compensation?

You can make a request to the Ministry of Justice for compensation under the Link opens in new windowAct on damage caused by a public authority.

If my appeal is successful, will a record be kept of the conviction?

Records of a conviction are drawn up only after the verdict becomes final. Once the verdict of guilty becomes final, a record is entered in the criminal register. If an extraordinary remedy is successful, this record is then deleted.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back to my home state after the trial?

Yes, you can be extradited to serve the sentence if the time remaining is at least 4 months.

The relevant authority of the country concerned must ask for extradition and the extradition must be consistent with constitutional rules and obligations, and with international treaties on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The court can also order your extradition as part of a guilty verdict.

Can I appeal the decision to send me back to my home country?

You can appeal the decision when the notice to serve the sentence is delivered. You can appeal against the sentence of extradition.

If I am convicted, can I be tried again for the same crime?

No, not even in other Member States, unless permission to reopen the proceedings is given.

Will information about the charge and/or the conviction be added to my criminal record?

Yes, the Criminal Register holds records of legal convictions. The courts provide it with that information. The information is kept for a hundred years from the date of your birth.

If the conviction is removed, the information will not appear in the Criminal Register.  You can obtain an extract from the Register by requesting one. Depending on the seriousness of the conviction, it may be removed within time limits set by the law.  These range from one year after the sentence has been served, to fifteen years.

The information will be held whether you consent or not.

Can I object to the holding of the information?

You can file an administrative lawsuit with the Municipal Court in Prague.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCriminal Law for the General Public

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice

Last update: 17/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Traffic and other minor offences

The Link opens in new windowAct on Offences, defines an “offence” as behaviour which violates or threatens the interests of society and which is explicitly described as an offence in the Act or another law.

The definitions written above are all in the Act on Offences and the Link opens in new windowAdministrative Procedure Code and these are used in proceedings for offences.

How are speeding and parking violations and other such offences dealt with?

Traffic offences are dealt with by the municipal (city) authority.

Some offences and the sanctions that can be imposed by the municipal authority are:

  • speeding offences are normally dealt with by imposition of a fine ranging from CZK 1000, to CZK 10 000, depending on the seriousness of the offence.  A ban on driving ranging from one month to one year may also be imposed.
  • other traffic offences have fines on a scale depending on their seriousness from CZK 1,500 to 10,000 and a possible ban on driving of up to one year;
  • breaking the Link opens in new windowAct on Road Traffic by causing an accident resulting in the death or injury of a person, can result in a fine from CZK 25,000 to CZK 50,000 and a ban on driving for a period from one to two years.

What is the procedure in dealing with an offence?

Ticketed (coupon) proceedings

This is a less serious offence which has been reliably proven and for which a reprimand is not sufficient.  If you are willing to pay a lower fine, this can be dealt with by an authority which inspects traffic (or also the police) by imposing a ticket (coupon) fine on site.

Standard offence proceedings

Offences are adjudicated on the basis of official proceedings. The start of such proceedings is a report of an offence by a state authority, the police, a municipal authority, or by a legal entity or citizen.

The municipal authority may submit the case to another authority before the start of the proceedings. If the facts indicate that this concerns a crime, the case is submitted to the public prosecutor.

You will be a party to the proceedings in your capacity as the accused person.  The victim will also be a party, if there is a need to discuss compensation for damages caused by the offence.  Finally, the owner of an object or item which was or may be seized (for instance, the owner of a vehicle) will also be a party.

You are accused of the offence as soon as the first procedural act is made against you.

You are entitled to:

  • express your opinion about all the acts you are accused of and the evidence supporting these accusations;
    • refuse to testify;
    • challenge the facts and propose evidence for your defence;
    • submit petitions;
    • submit remedies.

Oral hearings are held and the municipal authority will prepare a report. You will be asked questions during the hearing and you can enforce your rights (as set out above). The report will become part of the file. The municipal authority will ask you to examine the documents contained in the file before issuing its decision. You are entitled to express your opinion about these documents.

End of proceedings for an offence:

  • when the proceedings are stopped for the reasons set out in Link opens in new windowthe Act on Offences (for instance, the act is not an offence, you have not committed the offence, a sanction would be insignificant next to the punishment which will be imposed on you for a different act in criminal proceedings, and similar reasons); or
  • when the decision is issued which finds you guilty of the offence and imposes a sanction on you.

Can citizens of other Member States be prosecuted for these offences?

The citizens of other Member States may be prosecuted in the same way as Czech nationals.

Can I appeal?

You have the right of full appeal. However, an appeal cannot be made against a fine imposed in ticketed (coupon) proceedings.

A decision contested by an appeal cannot be executed until a superior authority has decided the appeal.

Your appeal must be filed with the administrative authority (generally the municipal authority) within fifteen days of the date of notification of the decision.

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

No.

Related links

Link opens in new windowTraffic Offences

Last update: 17/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Denmark

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected or accused of a crime which is dealt with by a trial in court. For information on road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Summary of the criminal process

The following is a summary of the usual stages of the criminal process.

  • The police investigate all criminal matters. This includes questioning suspects, victims and witnesses.
  • If the police suspect that you have committed a crime, you will be charged. Once you have been charged, you have certain fundamental rights, for example the right to legal advice in serious cases.
  • The police decide whether or not to arrest you.
  • If you have committed a serious crime, you may - after presentation of the case to a judge - be remanded in custody while the case is being investigated.
  • Once the investigation has been completed, the case is sent to the Prosecution Service, which decides whether the charges should be dropped or the case should go to trial.
  • If the Prosecution Service decides to proceed with the case, it can do so by issuing a fixed penalty notice, an indictment or a summons for directions.
  • Criminal cases are tried by the district courts as court of first instance. The number of judges depends on the gravity of the case and on whether you plead guilty or not guilty.
  • The court’s judgment can usually be appealed to the high court. You can either appeal for a retrial of your case or appeal against the sentence.
  • You will be entitled to compensation for false imprisonment if the case against you is withdrawn or if you are acquitted.
  • The Danish Prison and Probation Service answers questions concerning the serving of sentences.

You can find details about all stages of the criminal process and about your rights in the factsheets. The information is not a substitute for legal advice and is for guidance only.

The rules concerning the criminal process, including police investigations, the preparation of the trial by the prosecution and the trial itself, are set out in the Danish Administration of Justice Act.

Please note that special rules apply in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Under the Treaty of Lisbon, Denmark has opted out from EU justice and home affairs cooperation and consequently does not participate in such cooperation in the same way as the other Member States. In each individual case you must therefore find out whether specific EU legislation applies in Denmark.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. These factsheets tell you where and how to complain.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 - Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • Preliminary charge, including questioning
  • Arrest (including European arrest warrant)
  • Preliminary statutory hearing and remand in custody
  • Intrusive measures
  • Decision on whether or not to bring charges against you
  • Preparing for trial by the defence

Link opens in new window3 - My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 - My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 - Road traffic and other minor offences

Related links

Link opens in new windowThe Danish legal system

Link opens in new windowDatabase of full-text legislation

Link opens in new windowFinding a Danish lawyer

Link opens in new windowInformation on the serving of sentence:

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

1 - Getting legal advice

It is very important that you get legal advice if you are somehow involved in a criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay for the lawyer’s services.

Finding a lawyer

You have the right to be represented by a lawyer of your own choice. The lawyer must be entitled to appear before the Danish courts. You can find a list of all Danish lawyers Link opens in new windowhere. On that website you can also see whether a lawyer specialises in criminal law, tax law or any other branch of law that is relevant to your case.

For each court in Denmark, the Danish Ministry of Justice has appointed a group of local lawyers with special experience in criminal cases. These lawyers are independent lawyers who run their own private law firms. The court can give you a list of these lawyers. If you do not ask for a specific lawyer, one of the lawyers on this list will be assigned to your case if the appointment of a legal representative is mandatory, for example if the police take you into custody.

Paying for a lawyer

If the court has appointed a lawyer for you, his or her fee will usually be paid from public funds. In connection with its ruling, the court will also determine the lawyer's fee. The fee will be determined on the basis of rates used by the courts in all criminal cases in which a legal representative has been appointed, whether or not it is a lawyer chosen by you.

The court will also decide who is ultimately to pay the lawyer's fee. If you are found guilty, you will usually have to pay the amount of the fee to the public authorities (the State of Denmark). The State will seek to recover as much of the amount as you can afford to pay.

If you are acquitted, or if the court's ruling is substantially more lenient than anticipated by the prosecutor, the court will typically order the authorities to pay the lawyer's fees and expenses. The court may also choose to let the authorities pay part of the lawyer's fees and expenses. This could be the case if court hearings were held in vain due to circumstances beyond your control.

You may appeal against the decision on the amount of the lawyer's fee and the ultimate liability for its payment to the high court within two weeks of the decision.

It is not possible to apply for free legal aid in criminal proceedings, and such legal aid will normally not be covered by legal expenses insurance policies.

Related links

Link opens in new windowPart 66 of the Danish Administration of Justice Act

Link opens in new windowList of lawyers in Denmark

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

What are the stages of a criminal investigation?

Criminal matters are investigated by the police. The police will typically investigate a case because they have been notified that a person has been a victim of violence or theft, or because the police, or possibly a citizen, have apprehended a person in the act of committing a crime.

Preliminary charge

At first, the police will seek to establish whether a criminal offence has been committed, and whether there are one or more identifiable suspects who may be charged with the crime. In that connection, the police will typically want to question the suspect.

Arrest

The police may detain a suspect.

Preliminary statutory hearing and pre-trial detention (including European arrest warrant)

If the police wish to detain a suspect in order not to jeopardise the police investigations or for some other reason, the suspect must be brought before a court within 24 hours of his or her arrest so that the matter can be submitted to a judge.

Intrusive measures

In addition to questioning the suspect and potential witnesses, the police may obtain information during the investigation by means of intrusive measures such as searches, surveillance of telecommunications, telephone tapping, etc. Most intrusive measures must be approved by a court before they are used.

Decision as to whether or not to file charges against a suspect

The purpose of the police investigation is to provide information that makes it possible for the prosecutor to decide whether or not to file charges against a suspect. If there is insufficient evidence to prove that a suspect has committed a criminal offence, the prosecution will drop the case.

At the local level, the police and the prosecution service are under the same management, so the prosecution service will often be involved at an early stage of the case, including the planning of the investigation.

Preparing for trial by the defence

For more information about the right to be informed about the investigation and to influence it, see Link opens in new windowhere.

My rights during the investigation

Click on one of the following links for further information about your rights at each stage of the case.

Preliminary charge, including questioning (1)

Why am I being charged?

You are charged because the police strongly suspect that you have committed a crime and that the police investigation will from now on focus on you and not some other person.

What does it mean that I am charged?

It means that you will be told what kind of crime the police believe you have committed. The police must tell you which provision of law they believe you have violated. You have the right to follow the investigation of your case through a lawyer, and in case of serious criminal offences you have the right to a court-appointed lawyer.

Why do the police want to question me?

The police want to question you to find out whether their suspicion that you have committed a criminal offence is correct or not. The police will use your statement in their further investigations. Later, the prosecutor will use your statement to decide whether the case should be tried as a guilty plea case.

Where and when may the police question me?

There are no special rules as to where and when the police may question you. The questioning must be conducted so that your rights are not unduly violated. The police are generally not allowed to contact you at your place of work. The police will typically start asking you questions at the crime scene. In many cases, the police will ask you to go to the police station for a more detailed interview.

What if I don't speak the language?

If you don't speak the local language, you have the right to an interpreter who can interpret to and from your own language. The police will provide the interpreter, and you do not have to say anything until the interpreter arrives.

Do I have to make a statement to the police?

You must state your name, address and date of birth to the police. You do not have to say anything else. You do not have to tell the truth. The police must inform you of these rights before the interview. It depends on your case and the gravity of the charges whether it would be favourable to your case that you make a statement to the police. If you don’t know whether you should answer questions, you should ask your lawyer.

Will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

You have the right to speak to a lawyer of your own choice before you decide whether you will agree to a police interview. If you don't know a lawyer, the police will find one for you.

Your lawyer has the right to be present during the interview but may not advise you on how to answer specific questions.

Can I check that the police have understood my statement correctly?

The police must write down your statement. You may read the report or have it read to you and then comment on it. It is up to you to decide whether or not you want to sign the report. Many lawyers will advise you not to do so if you do not understand the language.

What happens if I say something which is bad for my case?

If you have said anything that may harm your case, the police may use the information in their investigations. As a general rule, a police report is not evidence and cannot be used against you at trial on its own. The prosecutor may ask questions about details of the report. Changing your statement may harm your credibility.

Arrest (2)

Why am I being arrested?

You can be arrested when the police have reason to suspect that you have committed a criminal offence, if arrest is necessary to prevent you from committing other criminal offences, to ensure your presence or to ensure that you do not speak to others. You may also be arrested on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant issued by another EU Member State.

Can the police arrest me in all types of cases?

You will not be arrested if arrest would be disproportionate to the gravity of the offence with which you are charged. For example, it is highly unlikely that you will be arrested if you are suspected of having committed an offence for which the maximum penalty is a minor fine.

Where will the arrest be made?

The arrest will usually be made at the local police station. You will normally be held in a waiting cell until the police can question you (see Preliminary charge, including questioning (1)).

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

If you are ill, injured or under severe influence of alcohol or drugs, you have the right to see a doctor. You should tell the police that you need to see a doctor, also if you need special medication.

Can I contact a lawyer?

If you have been arrested, you have the right to contact a lawyer of your own choice before you decide whether you want to agree to a police interview. In certain cases, the police may refuse to let you have a specific lawyer. You may complain about this to the court.

Both the police and your lawyer must explain to you that you can have a court-appointed lawyer and who will have to pay for him or her.

Can I contact my embassy if I am from another country?

If you are a foreign national, you have the right to contact your country’s embassy. The police can help you contact the embassy.

Can I contact my family?

You have the right to let your family or employer know that you have been arrested. The police may refuse to comply with your request to contact them if they believe that such contact could interfere with the case. The police may choose to inform your family on your behalf.

For how long can I be held under arrest?

You must be released as soon as the grounds for your arrest no longer apply. If you have not been released within 24 hours, you must be brought before a court (preliminary statutory hearing) so that a judge can decide whether you should be released, whether your arrest should be extended (which is possible for up to 3 x 24 hours), or whether you should be held in custody (Preliminary statutory hearing and custody (3)).

When may an arrest be extended beyond 24 hours?

If the judge who hears the case at the preliminary statutory hearing finds that the evidence produced is inadequate for deciding whether you should be held in custody, your arrest may be extended for 3 x 24 hours from the time when the first hearing ended.

Preliminary statutory hearing and custody (3)

Why am I being held in custody?

You are held in custody because the police believe that it is necessary to detain you for a while or as long as the investigation is ongoing. You may also be held in custody to ensure that you will be available for extradition to another Member State under a European Arrest Warrant.

Who decides whether I must be remanded in custody?

A judge decides whether the conditions for holding you in custody are met. Before the judge decides whether you should be held in custody as requested by the police, a hearing is held (preliminary statutory hearing). During that hearing, the prosecutor will present the police's understanding of the case, and you will also have an opportunity to present your point of view. The judge will decide whether to remand you in custody, but not whether you are guilty as charged.

Can I be remanded in custody in all types of cases?

You may be remanded in custody on the following conditions:

  • The police must be able to explain why they suspect that you have committed an offence for which you may be sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months or more.
  • The potential sentence must be more than 30 days of imprisonment.
  • The police must be able to satisfy the judge that it is important that you are not released as long as the police investigation is ongoing, for one of the following reasons:
  • The police believe you will evade punishment.
  • There is reason to believe that you will continue to commit the same type of crime.
  • There is reason to believe that you will impede the investigation if released.
  • The crime is so serious that it would be offensive to others if you were allowed to go free while awaiting trial.

In rare cases you may avoid custody even though the conditions for holding you in custody are met, that is if imprisonment would be extremely burdensome for your personal circumstances. It is important that you inform your lawyer of such circumstances.

Where will the preliminary statutory hearing be held?

The preliminary statutory hearing will be held at the local court. You will normally be held in a waiting cell until you enter the courtroom.

Must I testify during the preliminary statutory hearing?

You do not have to make a statement or tell the truth. It depends on the nature of your case and the gravity of the charges whether it would be favourable for you to make a statement before the court. You should consult your lawyer to determine whether it would be best for you to testify or not.

Will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

The court will appoint a lawyer to represent you in court. If you do not ask for a particular lawyer, the court will appoint the lawyer on duty that particular day. For more information, see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1.

You have the right to discuss the case with your lawyer before the hearing. If you and the lawyer do not speak the same language, you are entitled to the help of an interpreter. Your lawyer will protect your interests during the hearing and may also ask you questions.

Can I check that the court has understood my testimony correctly?

The judge will enter the essential elements of your testimony in the court records. Your statement will be read out loud to ensure that it has been understood correctly.

What happens if I say something which is bad for my case?

Your testimony in court may be used as evidence in the case.

For how long can I be remanded in custody?

The judge will decide during the hearing whether you should be released or remanded in custody. In some cases, the judge will rule that your period of detention must be extended by 3 x 24 hours (see Arrest (2)).

If you are imprisoned, the judge will fix a maximum time limit of four weeks. This means that you must either be released before the expiry of that period, or your case must be brought before a judge again to ensure that the conditions for continued imprisonment are met. There is no maximum limit for the time you may be kept in custody. This will depend on the nature of the case.

You must be released as soon as the reason for your arrest no longer applies.

What is solitary confinement?

Sometimes the police will request that you be kept in solitary confinement so that you have no contact with other prisoners. You may only write to or telephone others under police supervision. It is the judge who decides whether you should be kept in solitary confinement.

Can I appeal against the ruling on custody and solitary confinement?

You can appeal against a ruling on custody or solitary confinement to the high court. The usual way to do this is to say that you want to appeal at the hearing where your case is heard.

Can I avoid custody if I surrender my passport or post bail?

The criminal code makes it possible for you to avoid being detained if you surrender your passport or post bail. However, this rarely happens in practice.

Intrusive measures (4)

During their investigation, the police may obtain information by using various intrusive measures, some of which are described below.

Are the police allowed to take my fingerprints and a photo of me?

The police may take your fingerprints and a photo of you on the following conditions:

  • You are suspected of having committed an offence and the measure is necessary for the police investigation.
  • The police have good reason to suspect that you have committed an offence for which you may be sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months or more.

Are the police allowed to take DNA or blood samples from me?

The police may take a DNA sample or blood sample from you on the following conditions:

  • There are reasonable grounds to suspect that you have committed an offence for which you may be sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months or more, and the measure is considered to be very important to the investigation.
  • A blood sample may be taken if alcohol or drug intake is an element of the crime of which you are suspected.

Are the police allowed to search me and my clothes?

The police may search your outer clothing on the same conditions as those applying to the taking of photographs.

Are the police allowed to check my mobile phone and search my car?

The police may check your mobile phone to find your telephone number and the IMEI number of your telephone and may also search your car on the following conditions:

  • The police have good reason to suspect that you have committed a prosecutable offence.
  • The search is assumed to be very important to the investigation.

Are the police allowed to search my home?

The police may search your home on the following conditions:

  • The police have good reason to suspect that you have committed an offence that can be prosecuted.
  • The search is considered to be very important to the investigation.
  • The offence may lead to imprisonment.
  • The police can substantiate that they are likely to find evidence relating to the crime or objects that the police should seize for other reasons.

Who decides that an intrusive measure is to be used?

The court decides whether your home may be searched. If there is reason to fear that evidence may disappear if the search is not conducted immediately, the police may conduct the search without having obtained a search warrant. The search must be brought before the court within 24 hours after it has been conducted. If you give your written consent to a search of your home, the police can make the decision to search your home.

The police decide whether to take your fingerprints, DNA and blood samples and a photo of you. The police also have the right to check your mobile phone, search your car, etc.

Can I complain?

If you want to complain about the investigation carried out by the police you can file such a complaint with the court.

Court decisions concerning searches and the planning of the investigation may be appealed against to the high court within two weeks of the court's decision.

Can I demand that the police destroy the fingerprints, photographs, DNA traces and blood sample results?

If the prosecution drops the case, or if you are acquitted, the police must destroy their photo of you. The police may keep your fingerprints and DNA samples but must destroy them after a certain period of time.

Can I claim compensation?

If you have been detained, imprisoned or exposed to an intrusive measure, and it subsequently turns out that the detention, imprisonment or intrusive measure was unjustified, you will generally be entitled to compensation. The Director of Public Prosecutions issues an annual notice about the rates to be used when determining the amount of such compensation.

Decision on whether or not to bring charges against you (5)

Once the police have concluded their investigation, your case will be sent to the prosecution service, who will decide how to proceed.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

If you have admitted during the police investigation that you are guilty of the most serious charges against you, the prosecution will usually try to have the case treated as a guilty plea.

What is an indictment?

The indictment forms the basis of the hearing of the case in court. The indictment must specify the statutory provisions that you are accused of having violated and must contain a description of how you have committed the offence(s). The description must be so precise that you can to prepare your defence on the basis of it.

Can I be charged with offences other than those the police have charged me with?

The prosecution service prepares the indictment. If the prosecution service has a view on the case that differs from that of the police, the indictment may contain new or different counts.

Can new counts be added to the indictment?

The prosecution must try to collect all pending charges against you so that a collective verdict can be delivered. The indictment may therefore contain new counts if you have been charged with an offence on several occasions.

Special rules apply if you have been extradited to Denmark under a European Arrest Warrant or under an extradition agreement. If you are indicted on new counts, you should consult your lawyer about them.

Can the indictment be changed?

An indictment can be changed or extended if a new indictment is prepared and served, which can be done until the date on which the court proceedings begin.

If the prosecutor in the case believes that the sentence for a count should be stricter than stated in the indictment, such a change is only possible if the Public Prosecution Service agrees to change the indictment. If it is changed, you must be notified within two months.

Once the court proceedings have started, only very limited changes may be made to the indictment. The court decides whether a change will be allowed.

Can I be charged with an offence that I have already been charged with in another Member State?

It cannot be ruled out that you may be charged with an offence which you have already been charged with in another country. However, you cannot be found guilty of a charge if you have already been sentenced for or acquitted of it in another country.

Will I receive information about the witnesses against me?

The prosecutor must file the indictment with the court together with a list of evidence stating the names of witnesses. Your lawyer will receive a copy of this list. You usually have a right to know the identity of the witnesses.

Preparation of defence (6)

On what basis can my lawyer and I prepare my defence?

Your lawyer will normally receive copies of all reports prepared by the police during their investigation. You have a general right to see the material. Your lawyer may only give you a copy of the material if permitted to do so by the police.

Am I entitled to see all the material produced by the police?

The police can order your lawyer not to give you certain information about the case material if this is deemed necessary to protect the interests of foreign powers or to provide evidence. Such an order may only be issued in serious cases, and only until you have testified in court.

Who decides whether I can see all the material?

The police will submit the material and decide whether a prohibitory injunction should be issued for part of or all of the case. The police’s decision can be appealed against to the court, which will then decide the matter.

Can I participate in all hearings of the case?

Generally, you have the right to be present at all court hearings where the court decides whether you should be remanded in custody, or at which accomplices or witnesses will be examined before the trial.

If requested to do so by the police, the court can decide not to allow you to be present at the hearings. In that case, you have the right to be told what happened at the hearing. The court may rule that you are not to receive such information. You have a right to be told what happened at a hearing you could not attend. At the latest, you must be told when you have testified before the court.

Can my lawyer participate in all hearings of the case?

Your lawyer is entitled to participate in all hearings of the case. This also applies to hearings where the court is to decide whether to allow bugging or telephone tapping, searches or other intrusive measures that require prior court approval.

Can my lawyer participate in the police investigation?

Your lawyer must be informed of the investigation and is entitled to participate in that part of the investigation that may serve as evidence in the case against you. Examples are identification parades, reconstructions, etc.

Can my lawyer conduct his/her own investigation?

Your lawyer will normally ask the police to make further investigations if you believe they have failed to obtain information that could help your case. If the police refuse to make such further investigations, the matter may be brought before the court, which may order the police to conduct the relevant investigations.

Your lawyer may also choose to make his/her own investigation. However, that rarely happens in practice. If your lawyer conducts his/her own investigation of the case, he or she may not obstruct the police investigation, and your lawyer's own investigation must comply with the codes of ethical conduct that apply to lawyers.

Can my lawyer summon witnesses to testify in court?

Your lawyer can ask for certain witnesses to be summoned to testify in court. If the prosecution objects to those witnesses being heard, the court will decide whether the hearing of the witnesses in question is relevant.

Related links

Link opens in new windowDanish Administration of Justice Act

Link opens in new windowDanish Act on the establishment of a central DNA register

Link opens in new windowDirector of Public Prosections

Link opens in new windowDanish Extradition Act

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

3 - My rights in court

Where will the trial be held?

The trial will be held in the local city court and will be open to the public. If you have admitted that you have committed the offence or offences with which you are charged, the prosecution will ask for proceedings on an admission of guilt. In that case, the court will only consist of one professional judge. The same applies if the only penalty claimed is a fine.

If you have not admitted your guilt, your case will also be heard by lay judges, and the court will then consist of one professional judge and two lay judges.

If the prosecutor demands imprisonment for four years or more, the case will be heard by a jury. The court will then consist of three professional judges and six jurors. Exceptions are cases concerning narcotics-related crime and economic crime, which are heard by professional and lay judges regardless of the sentence demanded.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

If the case is to be heard as a guilty plea case, it can be agreed that the charges will be adjusted to fit the crime that you can plead guilty to.

As soon as the trial against you has begun, only minor elements of the charges may be changed. The charges may not be extended without your consent.

What are my rights during the trial?

You must be present during the entire trial. The court may allow you to leave a hearing when you have made your own testimony.

If you have been notified of a hearing, but fail to attend court without a lawful excuse, the court may decide that the witnesses are to be examined in your absence. The court may give its decision in your absence if the prosecution has asked for imprisonment for up to six months and you have given your consent that the trial may be concluded. If you receive an unconditional sentence of up to three months of imprisonment, the case may be concluded even without your consent.

Since 1 November 2009 it has been possible to attend legal proceedings by means of a video link if the maximum sentence asked for is a fine or imprisonment for up to one year. However, not all courts have installed the equipment needed to give you this option.

If you do not speak and understand the language of the court, you have the right to the help of an interpreter during the entire trial. The interpreter will also assist you if you need to speak with your lawyer during a hearing.

If you do not already have a lawyer, the court will appoint one for you if you plead not guilty to the charges made against you, and if the sentence asked for is more than a fine. If you plead guilty in a case in which the prosecution asks for a prison sentence, the court will appoint a lawyer for you if you ask for one. If you disagree with your lawyer or for some other reason wish to have a new lawyer, your wish will usually be granted.

You do not have to answer any questions during the trial or to tell the truth. You cannot be punished for giving untruthful evidence during the trial. Your lawyer can advise you on whether your interests are best served if you make a statement in your case.

What are my rights in relation to the evidence against me?

The use of written evidence during trial is governed in detail by law. Other than that, there are almost no rules, and you are free to produce any kind of evidence. You and your lawyer can challenge the admissibility of witnesses or evidence, in particular if they are irrelevant to your case or if evidence has been unlawfully obtained. The court decides whether or not to admit such witnesses or evidence challenged by you. In most cases, unlawfully obtained evidence will be declared inadmissible in court. The court will consider the weight of the evidence in question after having heard the other evidence.

You can ask for certain witnesses to be called to testify at a hearing or for a certain piece of evidence to be produced in support of your case. This could for example be a passenger list which shows that you were not at the scene of the crime when it was committed. If the prosecution disagrees with the relevance of certain evidence, the court will decide on the matter.

The party who called a witness will examine the witness first. Afterwards, the other party will have an opportunity to cross-examine the witness. When deciding on its verdict, the court will assess the certainty and reliability of the witness statements given during the trial.

Will my criminal record be taken into account?

Information about previous convictions will be taken into consideration if it follows from the description of the offence that it is a repeat offence. In rare cases, information about the mode of operation used in a previous case can be invoked to substantiate guilt or innocence in the pending case. It will normally affect the length of your sentence if you have previously been convicted of a similar offence, or if you committed the offence during the probation period following a suspended sentence or during release on parole.

Normally, no inquiries will be made about any previous convictions you may have in another Member State.

What happens at the end of the trial?

The case ends with the court's ruling. The outcome can be one of the following:

  • Acquittal
  • Fine
  • Suspended sentence, which may also be an order for treatment or an order for community service
  • Unconditional prison sentence

In case of a suspended sentence, the court will normally fix a prison sentence that you will not be required to serve if you do not commit another offence during the probation period, which is typically one or two years.  As conditions for probation, the court may require that you remain under the supervision of a probation officer, are treated for alcohol abuse or other types of abuse, receive psychiatric treatment and/or perform a certain number of hours of unpaid community service determined by the court.

There are special sanctions for juvenile offenders (offenders under the age of 18).

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

The victim is considered a witness like all other witnesses. However, in certain cases the victim has the right to a lawyer who is separately appointed by the court and/or to be awarded damages during the trial, provided that the claim for damages is simple and well documented and that the court's award of damages does not cause any material inconvenience.

Related links

Link opens in new windowDanish Administration of Justice Act

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 - My rights after the court has made its decision

Can I appeal?

The court makes its decision at a hearing. You can appeal against the decision, verdict or sentence to the high court. You can either ask for acquittal or reduction of your sentence. If you believe that serious mistakes were made during the trial of your case before the district court, you can ask for the case to be sent back to the district court for a retrial with new judges.

You can appeal orally against the conviction, verdict or sentence at the hearing at which the decision is pronounced. You can also appeal in writing to the district court or the prosecution service. Your appeal must be filed within two weeks. If you have a lawyer, he or she will typically take care of the practicalities in connection with your appeal. If your sentence is a fine of DKK 3,000 or less, you need permission from the Danish Board of Appeal Permission to appeal the decision. Your application to the Board of Appeal Permission must be submitted within two weeks of the decision.

What happens if I appeal?

If you appeal against the court's decision, the case will be heard by the high court. This hearing, too, is open to the public. There is no time limit as to when the case must be heard by the high court.

If you have been remanded in custody, the high court must hear your case before any other cases. The high court must also decide whether you should remain in custody until and during the appeal proceedings.

If you appeal for acquittal, your case will be retried by the high court. In that case, you are entitled to produce new evidence. You should discuss with your lawyer as quickly as possible what new evidence should be introduced in the appeal case.  As soon as the prosecution has disclosed what evidence it will rely on in the high court proceedings, your lawyer will normally have 14 days to disclose your evidence. You may be able to obtain an exemption from the 14-day time limit.

If you only appeal for a reduction of your sentence, the high court will only consider the sentence. In such cases the parties will not produce any evidence to the high court, but your lawyer may ask the court to obtain additional information about your personal circumstances which is relevant to the fixing of the sentence or the question of extradition.

 

What happens at the appeal hearing?

If you have appealed for acquittal, the case will be retried by the high court. In practice, the high court will often begin by reading out the statements made by you and the witnesses in the district court proceedings. However, if you and your lawyer disagree with this procedure, the statements must be given anew.

If you have appealed for a reduction of your sentence, the high court will take the evidence presented in the district court into account and will decide on the sentence on that basis.

The high court will announce its decision at the hearing. The high court can decide to uphold the district court judgment, to increase or reduce the sentence, or to acquit you. If you are acquitted or if the sentence is reduced, the costs of the appeal will be paid for out of public funds. The same applies if the prosecution appealed against the judgment and the high court only affirms it. In all other circumstances you are likely to be ordered to pay the costs of the appeal proceedings.

What happens if the appeal is successful/unsuccessful?

The high court judgment will supersede the district court judgment and will generally be final and conclusive. The case may extraordinarily be brought before the Supreme Court with permission from the Board of Appeal Permission. Such permission is normally granted only if the case is a matter of principle and therefore a test case, or for other special reasons. The Board only grants permission for a few criminal cases to be brought before the Supreme Court. Your lawyer can advise you on your chances of obtaining such permission.

If you are acquitted and if intrusive measures such as arrest, detention or search were used in the investigation, you can claim damages. Your claim must be made in writing to the regional public prosecutor no later than two months after the court's ruling. Your lawyer will normally take care of the practicalities in connection with raising the claim. Don’t forget to let your lawyer know where you can be contacted in your own country.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back there after the trial?

You can normally be sent to another Member State to serve your sentence. Usually, this will only happen if you ask to be sent back to your own country to serve your sentence. You must send your application for serving your sentence in your own country to the Danish Ministry of Justice.

If I am convicted, can I be tried again for the same crime?

In Denmark, you cannot be sentenced twice for the same crime. The same principle applies in other European countries. Since the penalty provisions can be different from country to country, you have to ask about this in the country that might pursue the crime as well.

Information about the charges/conviction

As soon as a case has been decided, the decision will be reported to the Central Crime Register. Decisions concerning violations of the Danish Criminal Code will be entered in the decision part of the register. Decisions concerning violations of other legislation will be registered if you are given a prison sentence or a disqualification sentence (sentence depriving you of a right). The decision will be registered with specification of the name of the court that issued the judgment, the date of the judgment, the statutory provisions that were violated, and the sentence.

There are restrictions as to which decisions will be included in the criminal record that can be issued for your personal use. The data are stored electronically, and deletion of the data depends on the seriousness of the sanction. You can make a complaint about registration or deletion errors, but not about the actual registration of a decision. Complaints about registration must be submitted to the Office of the National Commissioner of the Danish Police, which is the data authority in relation to criminal records.

Related links

Link opens in new windowThe Danish Administration of Justice Act

Link opens in new windowExecutive order on the processing of personal data in the Central Crime Register

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Minor offences

How are minor road traffic offences dealt with?

If you are stopped by the traffic police, who are concerned with enforcement of road traffic laws, you can either admit or deny your guilt. The police must charge you with the offence they believe you committed. You have the rights of a defendant and do not have to make a statement to the police.

The penalty for a road traffic offence is normally a fine. Road traffic offences are dealt with in the same way as other offences for which the penalty claimed is a fine. The police will send you a bill for the fine. If you pay the bill, it means that you admit the charges. If you do not pay the bill, the case will be sent to court. You will be summoned to appear at a hearing where evidence concerning the offence can be produced.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has issued a Link opens in new windowpenalty catalogue for traffic offences where you can check that your fine matches the fines usually given for the type of traffic offence you have committed.

The Link opens in new windowRoad Traffic Act allows the police to impound your vehicle if you are resident outside Denmark and your car is registered in a country other than Denmark. The vehicle may be impounded until the fine is paid or until security is provided for payment of the fine. If you don't agree that you committed a road traffic offence, you will therefore in certain cases have to provide security for payment of the fine and ask for the case to be heard in court. The police frequently use the right to impound vehicles.

There are special rules for vehicles and drivers from other Scandinavian countries.

How are parking offences dealt with?

Parking restrictions are normally enforced by traffic wardens working for a local authority or a private enterprise, and not by the police. If you park illegally, you will receive a parking fine. The parking fine will be put on your car.

If you meet the traffic warden before he or she records the parking offence, you can raise your objection directly to the traffic warden. The traffic warden may decide not to record the offence or make a note about your objection. If you receive a parking fine, the fine must be accompanied by guidelines on how you can complain about the fine. There is no central complaints body.

 

Parking fines are collected in the same way as other civil claims. This means that the claim will be sent to a collection agency in your country of residence if you do not pay the fine.

Will this type of offence appear from my criminal record?

Your criminal record will normally not include fines. However, fines for criminal offences will be included in your criminal record.

Parking fines are not regarded to be a criminal sanction and are therefore not included in your criminal record.

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Germany

These factsheets explain what happens if you are suspected of committing a crime. For information on traffic offences which may be subject only to a fine, see Link opens in new windowfactsheet 6.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Criminal proceedings in brief

This section contains a brief outline of the steps involved in criminal proceedings.

Criminal proceedings are divided into three stages: Investigation, intermediate proceedings, and the main proceedings or trial (including appeals and enforcement).

  • Investigation (Ermittlungsverfahren): The prosecuting authorities (either the public prosecutor or the police) will start an investigation if they suspect you of a criminal offence. The aim of the investigation is to establish whether or not the suspicion against you is justified. In order to conduct their investigation they may take a variety of measures, including searching your home. When the investigation is complete, the public prosecutor will decide whether to discontinue the proceedings on lack of suspicion or whether to charge you.
  • Link opens in new windowIntermediate proceedings (Zwischenverfahren): In the intermediate proceedings a court assesses the charge and decides whether or not the prosecution should proceed. If the court believes that there is enough evidence to make a conviction likely, it will open the main proceedings.
  • Main proceedings (Hauptverfahren): In the main proceedings, the court prepares and conducts the trial. The court tests the charge at an oral hearing on the basis of the evidence available (eyewitnesses, documents, etc.). You will also be given the opportunity to tell the court your version of events and to comment on the allegations. If you are found to have committed the offence, you will be convicted. If not, you will be acquitted. You can appeal against a judgment within certain time‑limits. In a full appeal (Berufsverfahren), the main proceedings are repeated before a higher court. In review proceedings (Revisionsverfahren), the judgment is checked only for legal defects.

There are variations on this. The main variations are Link opens in new windowsummary proceedings (Strafbefehlsverfahren), Link opens in new windowdiscontinuation of proceedings (Einstellung des Verfahrens), and Link opens in new windowexpedited proceedings (beschleunigtes Verfahren).

These factsheets contain details of the individual steps in criminal proceedings and of your rights. The information is for guidance only, and should not be considered a substitute for legal advice.

The European Commission’s role

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint.

Please click the following links to find the information you need.

Link opens in new window1 – Notes

Link opens in new window2 – Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the investigation

  • Questioning
  • Identification procedure/body search
  • Search/seizure/wiretapping
  • Arrest
  • Pre‑trial custody
  • The charge

Link opens in new window4 - My rights in court

Link opens in new window5 - My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window6 - Traffic offences

Related links

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure

Last update: 13/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница немски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

Discontinuation of proceedings (1)

Proceedings may be discontinued (Einstellung) at any point, either by the public prosecutor or, after the prosecution has been brought, by the court. There are various ways in which proceedings can be discontinued. The main ones in practice are as follows.

Proceedings can be discontinued provisionally, for example if you are absent for a long period. Proceedings can also be discontinued if the investigation does not produce sufficient grounds to bring charges, in which case the public prosecutor may reopen the proceedings at any time (subject to certain periods of limitation), for instance if new evidence comes to light.

The proceedings can also be discontinued definitively. This can happen in the case of offences where the degree of culpability is small and there is no reason to believe that prosecution would be in the public interest. Proceedings may also be discontinued conditionally, for example on condition that you pay a fine or comply with an order, such as an order to attend road safety classes.

Summary proceedings (2)

At the end of an investigation into a minor offence (Vergehen) the public prosecutor, rather than bringing a prosecution, may apply to the court in writing for a summary order (Strafbefehl). The court may make a summary order if it considers the written evidence sufficient. A summary order describes the offence briefly and imposes a stated penalty. If you do not object, the summary order has the same effect as a final judgment.

A summary order has limited legal consequences. It normally imposes a fine. It may also impose a driving ban. Provided you have a defence lawyer, you may also be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of no more than one year, but probation must be granted.

If you do wish to object, you have two options:

In the case of a fine, you may confine your objection to the daily quota used to calculate the fine. If you and the public prosecutor agree, the court can take a decision without a full trial.

If you do not limit your objection, the case will go to trial. You do not have to appear in person, but may be represented by a lawyer. Witnesses do not need to appear in person either. Minutes of examinations of witnesses can be read out with your agreement, if you are present at the trial.

At the end, the court will deliver judgment. It is not bound by the penalty imposed in the summary order: it may also impose a higher penalty, within the legal sentencing limits.

Expedited proceedings (3)

Where the facts are simple and the evidence is clear, the public prosecutor can also apply to the court for expedited proceedings (beschleunigtes Verfahren). Proceedings of this kind may be resorted to for example if you are not resident in Germany and there is reason to believe that you will not appear at a later court hearing.

If the public prosecutor applies for expedited proceedings, the trial will take place immediately or within a short time. There is no need for a court decision to proceed to the trial stage, as there is with an ordinary prosecution: there are no intermediate proceedings.

In expedited proceedings there are simpler rules allowing the court to refuse applications to have certain evidence considered.

The scope for sentencing is likewise limited. The court can impose only a fine, or a term of imprisonment of no more than one year. It may also withdraw your driving licence.

Court‑appointed lawyer (4)

Unless you are already being represented by a lawyer, the court must appoint one if you are suspected of a more serious crime (Verbrechen), or if the likely sentence in the event of a conviction is more than one year’s imprisonment, or if you are being held in pre‑trial custody, or you are unable to defend yourself for other reasons. In expedited proceedings a defence lawyer will be appointed if the likely sentence is more than six months. The court’s obligation to appoint a lawyer does not depend on your financial status.

The court appoints the lawyer. It must allow you to choose your own lawyer if you so wish and to nominate that lawyer to the court. If you do not nominate a lawyer, the court will designate one itself.

The court‑appointed defence lawyer can be changed only in exceptional cases. You may also appoint a different lawyer of your own choice, in which case the court will usually withdraw the appointment of the court‑appointed lawyer. If you do choose your own lawyer you will have to pay the costs yourself, except in so far as the costs have to be borne by the state in the event of an acquittal.

Data on investigations/charges/convictions (5)

What data is kept?

The police keep their own databases of information obtained during investigations.

The public prosecutor’s office also stores data during and after an investigation. Information obtained in the course of an investigation is also kept in a central register of prosecutions. There are specific periods set by law after which the information must be deleted.

Records of convictions in criminal cases are kept in the Link opens in new windowFederal Central Criminal Register (Bundeszentralregister). You have no say about whether this data is recorded. Convictions are deleted after a specified time if no fresh convictions have been added. The length of time depends on the severity of the sentence.

What data are consulted in criminal proceedings and when?

The police and public prosecutor may access their own databases at any time. They have no direct access to the Link opens in new windowFederal Central Criminal Register. When the court prepares for the trial it will request an extract from the register.

Do the data play a role at the investigation stage?

If there are records of previous investigations, the public prosecutor’s office must take these into account if, for example, it is checking the possibility of discontinuing proceedings under Sections 153 and 153a of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Do the data play a role at the trial stage?

The law allows previous convictions recorded in the central register to be taken into account at the trial. If you are found to have previous convictions, they may have a negative effect on the sentence. Data kept only by the public prosecutor or the police may not be taken into account in sentencing.

How can I find out what information has been stored about me, and what can I do about it?

You can find out what data concerning you has been stored by applying to the departments that record the data.

You can apply to have the data deleted by the department. If the department refuses to do so, you may have the decision reviewed by a court.

Further information

The Central Criminal Register is governed by the Link opens in new windowFederal Central Criminal Register Act. Data stored by the public prosecutor is subject to Sections 483 ff. of the Code of Criminal Procedure; the central register of prosecutions is covered by Section 492(1) of the Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure, with further details in a Link opens in new windowRegulation; police databases are governed by the Federal Office of Crime Prevention Act and the police legislation of the Länder.

Legal challenges during investigation (6)

You have the right to challenge measures taken during an investigation. The remedies open to you include filing a police complaint or applying for the matter to be decided by a court.

You can lodge a complaint (Beschwerde) against such a court decision.

If the police or the public prosecutor have taken a measure without a warrant, you can apply to have it reviewed by the court retrospectively. If you object to a seizure, the matter will be brought before a judge automatically, and you do not need to apply to the court.

Last update: 13/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница немски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

2 – Getting legal advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important if you are involved in some way in the criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay for legal advice.

Finding a lawyer

When you learn that you are subject to a criminal investigation, you may search for specialist criminal lawyers on the Internet for example. Every lawyer (Anwalt) registered in Germany is authorised to act as a defence lawyer. If the matter is urgent, because you are about to be arrested or your premises are about to be searched, you can find a defence lawyer around the clock through a criminal lawyer hotline. If you need someone with specific language skills or in a particular location, you can go to the Link opens in new windowcriminal lawyer search function provided by the Criminal Department of the German Law Association (Deutsches Anwaltverein). You can also look up the regional bar association (Rechtsanwaltskammer). Since 1 January 2010, there have been regional lists of lawyers who are prepared to take on Link opens in new windowcourt-appointed defence work. You can find out where to get these lists and how to use them through your local bar association (including Link opens in new windowhere).

If you have been arrested or are being held in Link opens in new windowpre-trial custody you will not be able to access this information. The police are obliged to provide you with a list of lawyers or a telephone directory if you ask for one. The police also know the hotlines. If the police do not allow you to get in touch with a lawyer, you must tell this to the court as soon as you appear there. The courts also have lists of lawyers who are prepared to take on Link opens in new windowcourt-appointed defence work.

Paying for a lawyer

If you are acquitted, the state must pay the lawyer’s costs. If the proceedings are Link opens in new windowdiscontinued at the investigation stage or if you are convicted, you will have to bear the costs yourself.

Even if you are on a low income or have no income at all, there is no basic right to financial support from the state in criminal proceedings. You can apply for aid for initial legal advice from your local court (Amtsgericht).

There are special rules on payment in the case of Link opens in new windowcourt-appointed defence lawyers. Here the state pays the lawyer in the first place, but the statutory payment for a court‑appointed lawyer is lower than what the lawyer would otherwise be able to charge. If you are convicted, you will be billed for the costs of the court-appointed lawyer at the end of the proceedings. You will then have to pay the legal costs back to the state, and in addition pay the lawyer the costs he or she would have been entitled to charge if he or she had not been appointed as your lawyer by the court, always supposing that you are in fact able to pay.

Last update: 13/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница немски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

3 – My rights during the investigation

This factsheet deals with the investigation stage, which starts when the law enforcement authorities carry out their first investigations and ends when the public prosecutor brings a charge or discontinues the proceedings.

What are the stages in a criminal investigation?

The prosecuting authorities (either the public prosecutor or the police) will start an investigation if they suspect you of a criminal offence. The aim of the investigation is to establish whether or not the suspicion against you is justified. They must also investigate any evidence in your favour. If the public prosecutor believes that the suspicion is justified he or she will bring a charge against you (or apply for a Link opens in new windowsummary order (Strafbefehl)).

In order to investigate the case there is a variety of measures that the police and the public prosecutor can take. What measures will be taken, and when, depends on the circumstances. For example, you may be arrested immediately after committing an offence. Arrest may be followed by pre-trial custody.

If you feel that an investigative measure will affect you adversely you may challenge it before a court, at the time or retrospectively.

Data regarding previous investigations and convictions may be called for. The details are explained Link opens in new windowhere.

My rights during an investigation

You have the right to a lawyer throughout the investigation. For information about finding a lawyer and the related costs, see Link opens in new windowhere. If you do not speak German, you can request an interpreter for your meetings with your lawyer.

You do not have the right to see your file. However, you can be granted disclosures from the documents if they do not put the investigations in jeopardy, or infringe the rights of third parties. When the investigation is complete, your defence lawyer will be granted access to the documents. Before this, access is granted only if it does not jeopardise the purpose of the investigation.

For information about your rights if any of the following investigative measures are taken against you, see the sections below:

If I am a foreign national, how will this affect the investigation proceedings?

In general, you have the right to leave Germany during a criminal investigation. You are prevented from leaving the country only if you have been arrested, or if an arrest warrant has been suspended subject to the condition, for example, that you are not to leave your place of residence without the permission of the court.

If you know that you are being investigated, you should make sure that the public prosecutor and the court can contact you by post.

You can contact your national consulate at any time in the course of an investigation.

Questioning (1)

If you are suspected of an offence, the police or the public prosecutor will question you about the accusation, so as to ensure that you are given a proper hearing. In some cases, if the public prosecutor so requests, you may also be questioned by a judge.

What should I do if I have been called for questioning?

If the public prosecutor or a court has called you for questioning (Vernehmung), you must attend. If you fail to respond you may be brought before the prosecutor or court by force. If you are called for questioning by the police you are not bound to attend.

What will I be told before questioning?

Before you are questioned you will be told what you are accused of having done, and what laws may have been broken. You will be told that you have the right to remain silent, that you may consult a lawyer before you are questioned, and that you may ask for items of evidence in your favour to be considered.

Will I be provided with an interpreter if I don’t speak the language?

If your German is not good enough, an interpreter will be provided. This will not cost you anything. The interpreter will attend the whole interview and will translate the questions, your answers and the written record of the interview.

Can I talk to a lawyer?

As a suspect you may speak with a Link opens in new windowdefence lawyer alone or in the presence of an interpreter. If you are questioned by the public prosecutor or a judge, you may have a defence lawyer present, but not if you are questioned by the police.

Will I be interviewed? Should I give information?

Before the end of the investigation the police or public prosecutor must question you, unless the proceedings are discontinued. If the case is straightforward, you may be questioned in writing.

When you are questioned, even in writing, you must give your personal particulars. These include your first names, surname, name at birth, place and date of birth, marital status, your occupation, your address and your nationality.

However, you are under no obligation to answer the accusation, or to provide information relating to the case. What you say, and how much, is up to you, though you may wish to speak to your lawyer first.

What happens if I say something to my disadvantage?

Everything you say during an interview will be recorded in minutes. If you say something that is to your disadvantage, the court that considers your case after you are charged will know of it. Even if at a later stage you want to remain silent or to withdraw your statement, the court may in its judgment take account of anything you said earlier.

Will I be told of the state of the investigation when I am questioned?

It is up to the public prosecutor whether to inform you about the state of the investigation. The public prosecutor may not, however, give you misleading information.

What methods may not be used?

You cannot be mistreated or otherwise physically handled during questioning. Nobody may threaten you or promise you anything that is not allowed by law. Any statement you make under those conditions cannot be taken into consideration, even with your agreement.

Further information

The rules on interviewing suspects are set out in Sections 136, 136a and 163a of the Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure.

Identification procedure/body search/blood samples, etc. (2)

You can find details of how to challenge such measures Link opens in new windowhere.

What does the identification procedure involve? When will this be done?

The aim of the identification procedure (Erkennungsdienstliche Behandlung, ED-Behandlung) is to identify you so as to help establish your guilt or innocence in pending criminal proceedings. You may be photographed, your fingerprints or palmprints may be taken, and a note may be made of any distinguishing features, such as tattoos.

The identification procedure may be ordered by a court, by the public prosecutor, or by the police. It is generally carried out by the police.

The identification procedure may be carried out under compulsion, which means the police can restrain you and straighten your arms or fingers in order to take fingerprints, for example.

Can an identification procedure be carried out if it isn’t necessary for present purposes (e.g. if it is obvious that I am the perpetrator)?

Identification procedures may also be carried out for the purposes of future criminal proceedings, i.e. not for purposes of the case now pending but in order to preserve your details for any other cases that may arise at a later date. There must therefore be reason to believe that you may be subject to other criminal proceedings in future.

Are body searches allowed?

A body search may be ordered to establish facts that are material to criminal proceedings.

With a simple body search by the police, your body will be investigated to establish whether there is anything hidden in any of your natural orifices. If such a search might be embarrassing to you, it will be conducted by a person of the same sex or by a doctor. Before a search, you must be informed that you may ask for a person you trust to be present and that if you have a legitimate reason for doing so you are entitled to choose the sex of the person conducting the search. You are obliged to tolerate a search, but nobody can force you to take part in it actively.

Can samples be taken of my blood, other bodily fluids or my DNA (for example hair or saliva)?

Blood and other bodily substances may be taken, for example to check for any alcohol in your blood or to compare your DNA with traces of DNA found at the scene of the crime. Such samples may be taken only by a doctor, and not by the police. When the samples are no longer required for the criminal proceedings, they must be destroyed. However, your DNA pattern may be stored in a file if there is reason to believe that proceedings for a serious crime will be brought against you in the future.

If you do not agree to a body search or a DNA test, they will have to be ordered by a court. Where there is danger in delay and the matter is consequently urgent, the order may be given by the public prosecutor or the police. Force may be used.

Further information

Identification procedures are governed by Section 81b of the Code of Criminal Procedure, body searches and blood samples are governed by Sections 81a and 81d, and DNA tests are governed by Sections 81e, 81f and 81g.

Search/seizure/wiretapping (3)

You can find details of your how to challenge such measures Link opens in new windowhere.

May my home, my office, my car etc, be searched?

If you are suspected of a crime, the public prosecutor or the police may search your home and other premises, including your car, if they expect to find evidence there or if they need to arrest you.

The search generally has to be ordered by a court. Where there is danger in delay and the matter is consequently urgent, a warrant may be issued by the public prosecutor or the police.

You may be present during the search. You may also have your defence lawyer present. If a judge or prosecutor is not available to attend the search, two local government officials should be called if possible. But you may dispense with their presence. When the search is over, you must be provided on request with a document stating the reasons for the search and the offence you are accused of.

Can my property be seized?

The prosecuting authorities may secure items belonging to you if they are important as evidence. If you do not hand them over willingly, they can be seized. To seize property a court warrant must be issued. Where there is danger in delay and the matter is consequently urgent, a warrant may be issued by the public prosecutor or the police. You may challenge a warrant in court at any time, even after the search has been carried out.

If any items are secured or seized during a search, you are entitled to an inventory if you ask for one.

Can my driving licence be seized?

Your licence can be suspended provisionally by a court if there are compelling reasons to suppose that the court will withdraw it in a subsequent judgment on a traffic offence. This usually applies if you have committed a traffic offence which has shown that you are unsuitable to drive a vehicle. The provisional suspension of your licence is confirmation by the court of any earlier seizure of the licence. The police or the public prosecutor can seize your licence where delay would be dangerous and there are urgent reasons for withdrawing your right to drive.

Is wiretapping allowed?

Any communications (e.g. by phone) and conversations you have in your home may be monitored and recorded, subject to strict legal conditions; however, there has to be suspicion of a serious or very serious crime. Both measures require a court warrant. Where there is danger in delay and the matter is consequently urgent, such measures may also be ordered by the public prosecutor. You must be informed of the measures retrospectively.

Further information

Search and seizure are governed by Sections 102 ff. and 94 ff. of the Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure, provisional suspension of a driving license (seizure of a driving license) is governed by Section 111a, and wiretapping is governed by Sections 100a ff.

Arrest (4)

The public prosecutor or the police may arrest you provisionally if you are stopped at the scene of a crime or pursued from the scene of the crime and are suspecting of trying to escape. The public prosecutor or the police may also arrest you provisionally if there is danger in delay and the matter is consequently urgent, provided the conditions for issuing an arrest warrant are met. This is so if there are compelling reasons to suspect you of a crime and there are specific grounds for arrest. At the time you are arrested a warrant may already have been issued or ay still have to be issued by a judge on application by the public prosecutor.

Arrest may also be ordered if particular investigative measures, such as questioning or a body search, have to be carried out forcibly.

Will I be told why I have been arrested?

You will always be told the reason why you are being arrested. If a warrant has been issued, a copy must be given to you when you are arrested.

How long can I be held?

If you are detained under an arrest warrant which has already been issued or which has still to be applied for, your detention is subject to these time limits.

If you have been arrested in order to allow investigative measures to be carried out forcibly, they must be carried out immediately, and you must be released when they are complete. The time necessary depends on the circumstances. In such cases you may not in any event be detained for longer than the end of the day following the day of your arrest.

If you are arrested and it subsequently emerges that you are already under a custodial sentence which you have not yet served, you may be put in penal custody following your arrest.

Can I contact anyone?

When you are arrested you have the right to ask for a defence lawyer chosen by yourself at any time. You can inform a family member or someone you trust if this does not jeopardise the purpose of the investigation. You can also ask for your own country’s consulate to be informed.

Can I get a doctor if I need one?

You can ask to be examined by a doctor of your choice.

What is a European arrest warrant, and how can I contest one?

The purpose of a European arrest warrant is to order the arrest and handing over of a person who is wanted in the EU for prosecution or to serve a prison term or other custodial sentence. If you are subject to a European arrest warrant, you can be arrested in any Member State and removed to the Member State that issued the warrant.

If you are held in Germany under a European arrest warrant, you will first be questioned in the nearest local court (Amtsgericht) to establish your particulars and hear whether you have any objection to make to your extradition. The decision on any objections will be taken by the higher regional court (Oberlandsgericht).

You are entitled to legal representation at every stage of the procedure.

If you agree to extradition, you will be extradited immediately (the ‘simplified extradition procedure’). You will be advised that you may waive the ‘speciality rule’. If you do this, you may be prosecuted in the country issuing the warrant in other proceedings that are not the subject of the warrant. Your agreement to simplified extradition or to the waiver of the speciality rule is irrevocable.

If you do not agree, the higher regional court will rule on the validity of the extradition within 60 days. There is no appeal against the court’s decision.

For further information, see Link opens in new windowhere and Link opens in new windowhere.

Pre-trial custody (5)

When must I be informed of the arrest warrant?

If you have been detained under an arrest warrant, it must be given to you upon your arrest. If you have been arrested provisionally, you will have to appear before a court no later than the day after the arrest. If the court then issues an arrest warrant, it will inform you accordingly. If the court does not issue an arrest warrant, you will be released.

When can I be held in custody before my trial?

You can be held in custody if there are compelling reasons to suspect you and one of the grounds for arrest is present. These grounds include very serious crime, efforts to abscond, the danger that you might abscond, the danger of a repeat offence, or the danger that you might impede investigation of the offence, for instance by destroying evidence or influencing witnesses. You may be considered likely to abscond if you have no fixed abode, no permanent job and no close social attachments.

What can I do to contest a warrant for pre‑trial custody?

You can challenge a warrant for pre‑trial custody before the next higher court. You can also apply for a review of the warrant by the court that issued it. But if you apply for a review by the same court you cannot also challenge the warrant in the higher court.

How long can I be held in pre‑trial custody?

You can be held until the end of the criminal proceedings. You may be released earlier if the arrest warrant is withdrawn or your arrest is suspended. A suspension of your arrest may be conditional: for example, you may have to deposit a sum of money in bail, or you may be required to report regularly to the police.

You may be held in pre-trial custody for more than six months only in specified circumstances (e.g. if the investigation is especially difficult or unusually wide‑ranging, or there are other important reasons), which must be examined by the public prosecutor or by the court even on their own initiative

What will I be told on my arrest?

When you are arrested you will have to be told, in a language you understand, that you

  • will appear before court immediately, or no more than one day after your arrest;
  • are entitled to express your view of the accusation, or to remain silent;
  • are entitled to ask for evidence in your favour to be considered, and to remain silent otherwise;
  • may consult a lawyer of your choice at any time, even before you are formally questioned;
  • are entitled to ask to be examined by a doctor of your choice; and
  • may inform a relative or another person you trust, provided this does not jeopardise the purpose of the investigation.

You must be told that you may request interpreting services free of charge, and that you may inform the consulate of your country, which is entitled to correspond with you. When you are formally questioned you must be told of any incriminating circumstances. You must be allowed to rebut the reasons for suspicion and for your arrest and to draw attention to any circumstances in your favour. Finally, you must be informed of your right to challenge your arrest in the same or a higher court.

Can I receive visitors, get mail, wear my own clothes, etc., when in custody?

Generally you are allowed to receive mail while in pre-trial custody. However, you may be subject to certain restrictions. For example, you may be required to ask permission to receive visits and to use telecommunications. There may be a requirement that telecommunications and any mail or parcels you receive be monitored, or that you must ask permission to receive items during visits. You can challenge any of these restrictions. On the other hand, there are generally no restrictions on spoken or written communication with your defence lawyer. The rules on pre-trial custody can differ from one Land to another.

The charge (6)

If the investigation reveals sufficient grounds for you to be charged, the public prosecutor will submit an indictment setting out the charge (Anklage) or apply for a Link opens in new windowsummary order (Strafbefehl) from the appropriate court. Otherwise the prosecutor will discontinue the proceedings. In the indictment the public prosecutor summarises what you are accused of, what laws you have broken, and what the evidence is.

What does it mean if the court sends me an indictment?

At the intermediate stage the court has to consider whether the case should go to the main proceedings stage, i.e. to trial. It will first give you a copy of the indictment. It will also ask you to declare by a certain time if there is other evidence in your favour that needs to be considered, and whether you have any objection to the opening of the main proceedings.

In expedited proceedings the charge is treated differently, see Link opens in new windowhere.

What can I do if I cannot understand the charge because I don’t speak German?

If you are charged in a language you do not understand, you can request to have it translated, at no expense to you, and served on you again.

What can I do if I believe the charges to be wrong?

The court will give you a certain amount of time to state the grounds on which you believe the charge to be untrue. You can also apply for evidence to be considered which you think will be to your advantage.

Can the court dismiss the charge?

If the court believes that you will probably not be sentenced on the basis of the indictment, for example if it believes there is insufficient evidence, it will not allow the case to go to trial. The public prosecutor may immediately appeal against this decision.

Can the indictment be changed before the trial stage?

The public prosecutor may withdraw or amend the indictment at any time before the court allows the case to go to trial. The prosecutor may in any event bring forward new evidence at any time during the criminal proceedings.

Can I be charged for a crime for which I have already been charged in another Member State?

Being charged in another Member State does not prevent you from being charged in Germany. But if you have already been convicted for the same offence you will not be prosecuted again.

Will I be informed of the witnesses and evidence against me?

In the indictment the public prosecutor will list the evidence in support of the charge. Your defence lawyer will be able to view the file no later than at the end of the investigation and before the charge is brought against you. You yourself are entitled to information from the file and copies of individual documents.

Last update: 13/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 – My rights in court

The public prosecutor will forward the indictment to the court, which will decide in intermediate proceedings whether or not to proceed to the main proceedings stage, i.e. to a trial.

If the court allows the indictment to go to trial, the main proceedings begin with a court hearing. Court hearings may take place on one day or over several days. The indictment may also be dealt with in Link opens in new windowexpedited proceedings governed by separate rules.

How will the trial proceed?

First of all, the court will determine who is present: the public prosecutor, you and your defence lawyer (if any), and witnesses. The witnesses will then be asked to wait outside the courtroom.

You will be asked to give your personal particulars. You must give your name, address, place of birth, marital status and occupation. You do not need to say how much you earn.

The charge will then be read out.

You will be able to state your view on the accusations made. You do not have to say anything: you may remain silent. The court may not draw any inference against you from your silence. After that the evidence will be produced, i.e. witnesses questioned, expert witnesses heard and/or documents read out.

The public prosecutor and your defence lawyer (if any) will then give their assessments of the evidence and propose that you be convicted or acquitted.

You will have the last word.

The court will then give judgment and state the grounds on which its judgment is based.

Where will the trial take place?

The trial will be held in the place where the public prosecutor brought the charge; there are specific rules governing this aspect. Often the trial takes place in the court with jurisdiction for the area where the offence was committed.

Whether the proceedings will be conducted in the local court (Amtsgericht), the regional court (Landgericht) or the higher regional court (Oberlandesgericht) depends on the likely penalty for the offence. If a fine or a term of imprisonment of no more than two years can be expected, the case will be heard by a single judge sitting in the local court. If a sentence of two to four years’ imprisonment is expected, the case will be heard in the local court before three judges, consisting of one professional judge and two non‑professional judges (Schöffen). If a sentence of more than four years’ imprisonment is expected, the case will be heard in the regional court, before two or three professional judges and two non‑professional judges. Matters of national security are heard by the higher regional court, consisting of three professional judges.

Will the trial be public?

The trial is public. The public will be excluded only in exceptional circumstances, e.g. in order to protect witnesses.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

Minor changes can be made to the charges on the instructions of the court. Supplementary charges may be brought during the trial. But supplementary charges will be considered only if you and the court agree.

What happens if I plead guilty to some or all of the charges in the course of the trial?

An admission will not end the proceedings. However, the court may decide not to hear some of the evidence if it regards your admission as reliable, for example because it is corroborated by evidence already heard. If you admit any of the charges the court may reduce the sentence. In some cases your admission may form part of a Link opens in new windowplea bargain. A plea bargain relates to the sentence, and not to the verdict of guilty or not guilty.

What are my rights during the trial?

You are required to attend the trial. If you have not been excused from attending and nevertheless fail to appear, the trial will be stayed, and a warrant may be issued for your arrest. Proceedings for a Link opens in new windowsummary order are an exception to this rule.

If you cannot speak the language well enough, the court will provide an interpreter to translate all important steps taken and statements made during the trial.

You can appoint a lawyer to defend you. In some cases you must have a defence lawyer. If you do not choose a lawyer, the court will designate a Link opens in new windowcourt-appointed defence lawyer.

Can I challenge the evidence presented against me?

When evidence is brought against you, you can express your opinion of it. You can dispute any evidence which you believe has been improperly brought against you.

You can also apply for further evidence to be brought. You can gather your own evidence, but you will not enjoy the same powers as the police. For example, you cannot intercept telephone calls and produce the recordings n evidence.

You may ask witnesses to appear and say what they know, and you may bring them to the court. Bear in mind, however, that witnesses are under an obligation to tell the court the truth.

Witnesses are questioned first by the judge or judges and then by the public prosecutor. You and your lawyer may question them after that.

As a rule, an extract from the register showing your Link opens in new windowcriminal record, clean or otherwise, will be read out. If you have already been convicted of a crime similar to the one at issue in the present proceedings, the previous judgment may also be read out. The criminal register does not show previous convictions in other Member States. However, if the court learns of previous convictions in some other way it may take them into account.

What happens at the end of the trial?

The trial ends with a judgment, or the proceedings may be Link opens in new windowdiscontinued.

In the majority of cases trials end with a judgment. The court may find you guilty or acquit you, depending on the evidence. The judgment may impose a fine or a term of imprisonment. In particular circumstances provided for by law, the court may order a measure such as placement in a psychiatric hospital or a drug rehabilitation centre, or preventive detention. Withdrawal of your driving licence is another possible measure of this kind. A driving ban may be imposed as a supplementary penalty.

A Link opens in new windowfine is measured in terms of a certain number of daily quotas (Tagessätze, e.g. 50 daily quotas of €15). The daily quota is always one-thirtieth of your monthly income. You can also work to discharge a fine. If you do not pay the fine, and do not work off the fine, you will be imprisoned for one day per daily quota. If the fine is no more than 180 daily quotas, it may be suspended. That means you will be given a warning, and will have to pay the fine only if you offend again after sentencing, or otherwise breach any orders made by the court.

Prison sentences of up to two years can also be suspended. If you fail to meet the probation conditions, the sentence can be enforced.

Other measures and additional penalties can be attached to the sentence.

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

In the majority of cases the victim is an important witness, and will be heard in that capacity.

Victims of certain crimes may also take an active part in the trial if they are entitled to join their own civil action to the public criminal action. Victims may then themselves ask questions or apply for evidence to be considered, and may be represented by a lawyer who will do this on their behalf. At the end of the trial the victim or the victim’s lawyer may make closing submissions recommending a particular sentence.

Further information

The main proceedings are governed by the Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure and the Link opens in new windowOrganisation of the Courts Act.

Last update: 13/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 – My rights after the trial

If the court convicts you, you may appeal against the sentence. If you are acquitted you have no right of appeal, even if you do not agree with the grounds for your acquittal. The court must inform you of the options open to you.

There are two kinds of appeal against a judgment of a local court (Amtsgericht): a full appeal (Berufung), on questions of fact and of law, and an application for review (Revision), which is an appeal on points of law only. Against the judgment of a regional court (Landgericht) only the second of these is available.

Can I appeal the judgment?

As soon as the judgment is announced, you or your lawyer may state on the record that you are appealing. You can also appeal up to one week after the judgment. You can either appeal in writing or make a formal statement to the court office to say that you are appealing. You can appeal even if the judgment was preceded by a plea bargain.

You can appeal either against the conviction itself or against the level of the penalty.

If you enter a full appeal on questions of fact and law, you need not necessarily state your grounds.

If you apply for a review on points of law only, you must provide a statement of your grounds within one month of the date on which you are informed of the grounds of the judgment. To do this you will need a lawyer, because you are not entitled to submit such a statement of grounds without professional assistance.

What happens if I appeal?

If you appeal against the judgment it is not enforceable for the time being. This means that for the time being you do not have to pay the fine or serve the sentence imposed. If you are in pre‑trial custody, however, you will not be released. You can be released only if the court withdraws or suspends the pre‑trial arrest warrant.

There are no time limits within which your appeal must be decided. However, there is a general requirement that criminal proceedings must be completed as rapidly as possible.

On a full appeal a fresh trial takes place before the regional court. The court itself decides what evidence it considers material. It may look at the same evidence as the first court. But it may also consider other evidence. You yourself may also apply to have new evidence considered.

On an application for review no new evidence is produced. The court considers only whether there were any legal defects in the earlier judgment and the proceedings that led to it.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

In a full appeal before the regional court the hearing follows the same pattern as the hearing in the local court. The court delivers its own judgment. The procedure is different only if you confine your appeal to the level of the sentence. In that case the court will hear only evidence relevant to the level of the penalty, for example regarding your motives and personal circumstances.

In an application for review, judgment can be delivered without oral proceedings.

What happens if the appeal is successful/unsuccessful?

If you have brought a full appeal, and your action succeeds, you will be acquitted or your sentence will be reduced. If you are not acquitted, you can apply for a review of the appeal judgment.

If you have brought an application for review of the first judgment, and your action succeeds, there are two possibilities. Under certain circumstances the court carrying out the review may decide the case itself, and may for example acquit you. But in some cases the court carrying out the review must quash the earlier judgment and send the case back to the lower court.

A judgment that has been quashed is not entered in the criminal register.

A judgment is final if no appeal is entered within the time allowed, by any of the parties, that is to say by you, by the public prosecutor, or by any other party who has been allowed to join their own civil action to the public criminal proceedings.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back there after the trial?

As a citizen of the EU you can be expelled and deported from Germany only in strictly defined circumstances. The details are set out in the Free Movement of EU Citizens Act. If you are concerned that you might be deported, you can consult a lawyer.

If I have been convicted, can I be prosecuted again for the same offence?

In principle you cannot be convicted twice for the same offence. But whether a conviction does in fact relate to the same offence is a question that can involve fine legal distinctions.

Last update: 13/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница немски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

6 – Traffic offences

How are traffic offences dealt with?

Minor traffic offences, such as speeding, are dealt with administratively. They are not considered criminal offences (Straftaten), but only misdemeanours (Ordnungswidrigkeiten). But serious traffic offences, especially offences where other road users are endangered or injured, do usually constitute criminal offences.

Minor traffic offences are investigated by the administrative authorities. During the proceedings you can present your views in writing. For very minor offences (e.g. parking offences), you will be cautioned and offered the chance to pay a cautionary penalty (Verwarnungsgeld) of up to €35. If you pay, that will be the end of the matter; if you do not, and the administrative authorities believe you are to blame, they can issue a fining order (Bußgeldbescheid) requiring you to pay a fine (Bußgeld). Such an order may also impose a driving ban. The amount of the fine and the length of the ban are set out in a catalogue of penalties .

You may enter an objection (Einspruch) to a fining order. The public prosecutor will refer the case to court. In principle there should then be a trial, on the lines described in Link opens in new windowfactsheet 4. But if the court does not consider a full trial necessary, and you and the public prosecutor agree, it may decide the matter in a court order (Beschluss). You can challenge a judgment or order in such proceedings by bringing a complaint on a point of law (Rechtsbeschwerde) in the higher regional court (Oberlandsgericht). But this form of appeal is available only in certain circumstances, such as where you have been fined more than €250, or where the case would help to clarify the law.

Are citizens of other Member States prosecuted for such offences? If so, how?

Citizens of other Member States are also prosecuted for such offences. If you commit a driving offence, a cautionary penalty or a security payment may be required on the spot. Any such security payment will be offset against the fine determined at the end of the proceedings. If you are not stopped at the time of the offence, you may be prosecuted if your country shares vehicle identification data with Germany. Germany expects to join the EU-wide system for the enforcement of fines in autumn 2010. Fines imposed in Germany will then be enforceable in your home country.

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

Minor traffic offences are not recorded in the Link opens in new windowFederal Central Criminal Register, but in a separate Link opens in new windowCentral Register of Traffic Offenders. This contains particulars of persons committing traffic offences in Germany, whether their licence is German or foreign. Offences are recorded if the fine imposed amounts to €40 or more. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, a certain number of penalty Link opens in new windowpoints is also recorded. German drivers lose their driving licence if they get 18 points or more, while foreign drivers lose the right to drive in Germany.

Further information

Traffic offences and the relevant procedures are governed by the Link opens in new windowRoad Traffic Act, the Link opens in new windowHighway Code and the Misdemeanours Act.

Last update: 13/04/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница естонски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Estonia

These factsheets explain what happens if you are suspected or accused of a crime which is tried in a court of law. For information on minor traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fine, see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Summary of criminal proceedings

The following is a summary of the standard stages in criminal proceedings:

  • Launching of criminal proceedings
  • Pre-trial proceedings or investigation
  • Access to the criminal file and hearing of applications
  • Charging
  • Pre-trial proceedings in court
  • Court hearing
  • Judgment
  • Appeals proceedings (in courts of second and third instance)
  • Execution of the judgment

The factsheets give details about these stages of the process and about your rights. This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only.

The role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings carried out in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. These factsheets provide information on how and to whom complaints should be submitted.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 – Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 – My rights during the investigation of the crime

  • Launching of criminal proceedings
  • Detention and arrest
  • Interrogation and the gathering of evidence
  • Access to the criminal file, hearing of applications and charging
  • Additional information for non-residents

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 – Traffic offences

Related link

Link opens in new windowOverview of the Estonian criminal procedure in English

Last update: 08/08/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница естонски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

1 - Getting legal advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important if you are involved in some way in the criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay for the legal advice.

Must I have a lawyer?

You must have a lawyer during the pre-trial procedure as of the point at which you have the opportunity to review the criminal file (see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 2). Before this stage you must have a lawyer in the following cases:

  • if you were a minor when the crime was committed;
  • if you cannot defend yourself because of a physical or mental disability, or if the defence is complicated for you due to such disability;
  • if you are suspected of a crime which carries a sentence of life imprisonment;
  • if your case conflicts with the case of another person who has a defence lawyer;
  • if you have been in custody for at least six months;
  • if the case is tried in an expedited procedure.

You must have a lawyer during the trial. The lawyer’s participation in the trial is obligatory, unless the defendant does not want a defence lawyer, the court considers the defendant capable of representing his/her own interests and the defendant wishes to avoid involving a defence lawyer.

Finding a lawyer

You have the right to select your own lawyer, who agrees to represent you on the basis of a contract. The names and contact details of lawyers are available on the homepage of the Estonian Bar Association.

If you do not have a contracted lawyer, or your lawyer cannot represent you, you have the right to request that a lawyer be appointed for you. In this case the Estonian Bar Association appoints a lawyer to represent you.

Your right to have a lawyer appointed for you by the Estonian Bar Association does not depend on your economic situation. You need not reveal details about your financial situation when applying for a lawyer.

If you want to have a lawyer appointed by the Estonian Bar Association, you must submit a request to the investigating agency, prosecution or the court.

In certain proceedings, the lawyer’s participation is obligatory. If in those proceedings you have not selected a lawyer for yourself, the investigating body, the Prosecutor’s Office or the court will appoint one for you. You need not apply for a lawyer.

Paying for the lawyer

You must pay for the services provided by a lawyer you selected. The lawyer's fee and the conditions of payment are included in the client contract.

If you do not want to hire a lawyer yourself, you have the right to have a lawyer provided by the state. A lawyer appointed by the Estonian Bar Association will be paid by the state. You do not have to pay the lawyer. If the court finds you guilty, you will be obliged to reimburse the state for the lawyer's fees.

Can I replace my lawyer?

You have the right to replace the lawyer you selected. If a lawyer was appointed for you, you have the right to replace the lawyer if the original lawyer and the new lawyer agree. If the lawyer appointed for you has been incompetent or careless, you have the right to submit an application to the court asking for that lawyer to be removed and for the Estonian Bar Association to appoint a new one.

Related links:

The Estonian Bar Association
Last update: 08/08/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница естонски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

2 - My rights during the investigation of the crime and before the case reaches the court

Criminal proceedings have two stages: the pre-trial procedure or investigation, and the trial. Criminal proceedings may also be terminated without reaching court (for example, when it is established during the investigation that no crime was committed). You can be found guilty of a crime only in court.

What is the aim of the criminal investigation?

The aim of the criminal investigation is to establish whether a crime was committed and what the circumstances of the crime were. During the investigation, the evidence of the alleged crime will be collected, the circumstances established, and a decision will be made about whether the evidence is sufficient to charge you with the crime.

What are the stages of the criminal investigation?

Initiating criminal proceedings

Criminal proceedings are initiated by an investigating body (the police or some other state body with the power to do so) or the Prosecutor’s Office. Criminal proceedings are initiated when the police or the Prosecutor’s Office have received information about the alleged crime.

Detention and arrest

If the investigating body has good reason to suspect that you have committed a crime, you may be detained as a suspect for up to 48 hours. If you are detained, the investigating body must question you without delay.

If it becomes evident during the investigation that there are no grounds for detaining you, you must be released immediately. If the Prosecutor’s Office is convinced that you need to be detained longer so that you do not evade investigation or commit new crimes, they must request a warrant for your arrest from a court.

If this happens you will be brought before a judge within 48 hours of the time of your detention. The judge decides whether arrest is appropriate. If the judge finds that there are no grounds for your arrest, you will be released immediately.

Questioning and the collection of evidence

The aim of an investigation is to collect evidence confirming the circumstances of a crime. For this purpose the suspect, the victim and the witnesses will be questioned, evidence collected, forensic analyses performed and surveillance activities conducted. All the actions taken to collect evidence must be documented in accordance with the law. To charge you, only lawful evidence that has been collected legally can be used.

Granting access to the criminal file, hearing applications and presenting charges

A criminal file is created, containing details of the criminal investigation and the evidence. When the criminal investigation is completed, the Prosecutor’s Office gives a copy of the criminal file to the defence lawyer. Your lawyer will tell you about the evidence which has been collected and the basis of the charges against you.

You and your lawyer have the right to submit applications to the Prosecutor’s Office (for example to include additional evidence in the file, to have the criminal proceedings terminated, etc.). The Prosecutor’s Office must decide on these applications. If the Prosecutor’s Office does not satisfy an application, you can present the same application again in court during the trial.

If, after the file has been presented to you and decisions have been taken on any applications, the prosecutor finds that there is enough evidence to charge you, an indictment will be drawn up.

This is a document which contains the facts and sets out the evidence on which the charge is based. The prosecutor presents the indictment to the defence lawyer and transmits it to the court. On the basis of the indictment the judge will begin the trial.

My rights during the investigation

Initiating criminal proceedings (1)

Why are criminal proceedings initiated?

Criminal proceedings are initiated because the investigating body has received information which suggests that a crime has been committed. This information may be based on a complaint lodged by a person or the discovery of a fact which suggests that a crime has been committed.

The purpose of the criminal proceedings is to establish whether a crime was committed and, if so, whether the evidence is sufficient to charge a suspect with the crime.

Who carries out the criminal investigation?

The criminal proceedings are led by Link opens in new windowthe Prosecutor’s Office, and the criminal investigation is carried out by the investigating body in accordance with the instructions from the Prosecutor’s Office. In general, Link opens in new windowthe police carry out the investigation. The investigation may also be carried out by Link opens in new windowthe Internal Security Service, Link opens in new windowthe Tax and Customs Board, Link opens in new windowthe Environmental Inspectorate, Link opens in new windowthe Prisons Department and Prison Service of the Ministry of Justice, the military police and Link opens in new windowthe Competition Authority.

There are certain procedural acts that the investigating bodies may carry out only with the permission of either the Prosecutor’s Office or the court.

How do I learn that criminal proceedings have been initiated?

Criminal proceedings begin with the first procedural act. If you are suspected of having committed a crime, you will learn that criminal proceedings have been initiated when you are detained as a suspect or called to an investigator and questioned.

Why might I be suspected of having committed a crime?

You may be treated as a suspect if the investigating body has sufficient grounds to think that you have committed a crime. There may be different reasons for these grounds, for example:

  • you were caught committing the crime or immediately thereafter;
  • a witness to the crime or the victim identifies you as the person who committed it;
  • evidence of the crime or other information suggests that you are the person who committed it.

What are my rights as a suspect?

Your main rights as a suspect are:

  • the right to be told what you are suspected of, to make statements in relation to the suspicion, or refuse to do so;
  • the right to know that your statements can be used against you;
  • the right to have the assistance of an interpreter;
  • the right to have the assistance of a defence lawyer;
  • the right to meet the defence lawyer in private;
  • the right to be questioned with your defence lawyer present;
  • the right to participate in the court hearing concerning the request for your arrest;
  • the right to present evidence;
  • the right to submit applications and complaints;
  • the right to inspect the records concerning a procedural act and to make statements concerning the conditions, course and results of the procedural act and concerning the records, these statements also being recorded; to agree to the application of the settlement procedure, to participate in the negotiations as part of the settlement procedure, to make proposals concerning the type and size of punishment to be applied, and to enter into or to refuse to enter into a settlement agreement.

What are my obligations?

You are obliged:

  • to appear when called by the investigating body, the Prosecutor’s Office or the court;
  • to participate in procedural acts and obey the orders of the investigating body, the Prosecutor’s Office and the court.

What will I be told about the proceedings which are taking place?

If you are the suspect, the investigating body must explain your rights and obligations to you. You will be asked to sign a written record and, by doing so, you confirm that your rights and obligations have been explained to you.

After that you will be told what you are suspected of. This means that you are given a brief description of the crime you are suspected of having committed. You will also be given details of the legal provisions defining the act as a crime. Neither the investigating body nor the Prosecutor’s Office is obliged to give you any more information before the pre-trial proceedings are complete.

When can I speak to my lawyer?

From the moment you are confirmed as a suspect in criminal proceedings you have the right to meet and speak to your lawyer. You have the right to speak to your lawyer before the investigating body starts to question you.

Detention and arrest (2)

Under what circumstances can I be detained?

You can be detained as a suspect if:

  • you are caught committing the crime or immediately thereafter;
  • a witness to the crime or the victim identifies you as the person who committed it;
  • the evidence relating to the crime suggests that you might have committed it.

You may also be detained if the investigating body has other information suggesting that you are a suspect and:

  • you try to escape;
  • your identity has not been ascertained;
  • the investigating body is of the opinion that you may continue committing crimes, evade the criminal proceedings or impede them in some other way.

You may be detained and arrested for the purposes of surrender or extradition to another country (see Questioning and the collection of evidence (3)).

Who can detain me?

The investigating body has the right to detain you. If you are caught while committing a crime or immediately afterwards, or if you make an attempt to escape, anyone can take you to the police for detention.

How will I learn why I was detained and what happens later?

When detaining you, an official from the investigating body must inform you of the reason for your detention and explain to you your rights and obligations. The official will draw up a document concerning your detention which sets out the legal basis for your detention and the circumstances of the crime which you are suspected of having committed. You have the right to make applications and demand that these be included in the document on detention.

I do not speak the local language. How do I understand what is going on?

The investigating body must inform you without delay in a language and manner understandable to you of the reasons for your detention and of your rights. The investigating body must provide you with an interpreter if you need one. Only interpretation is provided, not written translation.

Can I inform the people close to me of my detention?

You have the right to inform at least one person of your choice who is close to you. This takes place through the investigating body. This means that you have the right to ask that a notice be passed on to a person of your choice, and this is done by the investigating body.

If the investigating body is of the opinion that it could harm the criminal proceedings to notify the person of your choice about your detention, it can refuse. The Prosecutor’s Office must authorise any such refusal.

How long can I be detained?

You can be detained for up to 48 hours. If the court has not issued a warrant for your arrest within 48 hours of your detention, the investigating body must release you without delay.

Under what circumstances can I be arrested?

You can be arrested at the request of the Prosecutor’s Office if there is reason to think that you may evade the criminal proceedings or commit new crimes. Only a judge can authorise an arrest.

How is the decision for my arrest made?

The investigating body takes you to a judge, who has to grant a warrant for your arrest. The prosecutor and, if you so wish, your lawyer are also called to the judge. The judge examines the file of your criminal case and questions you to check whether there are grounds for your arrest. After hearing the parties, the court approves or refuses the request for arrest. If the request for arrest is refused, you must be released immediately.

For how long may I be arrested?

At the pre-trial stage you cannot be held for more than six months. In extraordinary cases this may be extended. After each period of two months you have the right to request that the court review the grounds for your arrest, and the court must decide within five days whether it is justified to keep you under arrest. If the court finds that it is no longer justified to keep you under arrest, you must be released immediately.

Can I be freed on bail?

You have the right to request that bail be set instead of arrest. To do so you must submit an application to the court. You will be taken before a judge who will decide on the bail application. The judge must hear your opinion and that of your lawyer.

If the judge satisfies the application, you will be released from custody after the amount of the bail has been transferred to the court’s account.

Do I have the right to appeal against the warrant for my arrest?

You have the right to appeal against the warrant for your arrest. To do so you or your lawyer must lodge a written appeal with the district court through the court which issued the original arrest warrant. The appeal must be lodged within 10 days of becoming aware of the arrest warrant.

Questioning and the collection of evidence (3)

What is the purpose of questioning and the collection of evidence?

The purpose of questioning and the collection of evidence is to ascertain and make a written record of the circumstances of the alleged crime so that they can be checked in court. The investigating body and the Prosecutor’s Office are obliged to collect both information which suggests that you were involved in the crime and information which is in your favour. You do not have to prove your innocence.

Will I be asked for information?

If you are a suspect, the investigating body must question you without delay.

Must I give information to the investigating body?

You do not have to give information to the investigating body or answer the questions that you are asked. You have the right to remain silent. Silence cannot in any case be interpreted as an admission of guilt. You cannot be forced to incriminate yourself or people close to you.

How does questioning take place?

At the beginning of the questioning you must be told that you have the right to refuse to say anything and that anything you say can be used against you. First of all you will be asked whether you committed the crime of which you are suspected.

You will be given the opportunity to state what you know about the crime under investigation. You will also be asked questions. A written record of the questioning will be drawn up. Before signing the record, you have the right to read it through. You have the right to have your comments included in the record.

What happens if I say something that is bad for my court case?

Anything you say may be used as evidence against you.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

During the questioning you can plead guilty to all or some of the charges. You also have the right to do this at any time after questioning, even if you said you were not guilty during the questioning.

The criminal proceedings do not come to an end if you confess your guilt. The investigating body must still establish the circumstances of the crime and prove them. You cannot be convicted of the crime solely on the basis of your confession.

Do I have the right to withdraw my confession later?

If you have confessed your guilt, you have the right to go back on your earlier testimony and deny your guilt later in the criminal proceedings or during the trial. However, in this case your earlier confession may be presented in court and used as evidence against you. If other evidence confirms your guilt, the fact that you withdrew your confession will be ignored, because it is unreliable.

Can I get information about the witnesses testifying against me?

During the criminal investigation the investigating body is not obliged to give you information about which witnesses have testified against you and what these witnesses have said. You will only be told about the witnesses and their statements when you are given access to the criminal file at the end of the investigation (see Granting access to the criminal file, hearing applications and presenting charges (4)).

Will questions be asked about my previous offences?

You may be asked about your previous offences, but you may refuse to give this information. The investigating body has the right to establish whether you have any previous offences by referring to the various registers. Any previous offences will be set out in the indictment.

Might I be searched?

The investigating body has the right to carry out a body search to find traces of the crime, to identify the particular features of your body and to obtain other information which is important for the criminal investigation.

Can I be asked to give fingerprints, and are DNA samples (for example hair or saliva) or other bodily fluids taken from me?

The investigating body has the right to take forensic evidence and samples from you, including fingerprints and biological material for DNA analysis.

If you refuse to provide samples, the investigating body has the right to force you to provide them. However, if you still refuse to provide samples or if taking them would harm your physical integrity, this can only be done on the basis of a ruling from the investigating body. You have the right to see the ruling.

Can my home, business premises, car, etc. be searched?

Your home, business premises, car, etc. can be searched for the purposes of finding evidence of the crime or other items necessary for solving the crime. The Prosecutor’s Office or the court must issue a search warrant. If a search is required urgently, it is also allowed on the basis of a warrant from the investigating body.

The person on whose property the search is carried out must be shown the search warrant and asked to surrender the item mentioned in the warrant. If the item is not surrendered, the officials of the investigating body will carry out the search.

Can I lodge a complaint if my rights are violated?

If your rights are violated, you have the right to complain about the activities of the investigating body and submit a complaint to this effect to the Link opens in new windowProsecutor’s Office. If the complaint concerns the activities of the Prosecutor’s Office, it may be submitted to the Link opens in new windowOffice of the Prosecutor General#_msocom_1[A1] . The complaint will be reviewed within 30 days. You will be sent a copy of the decision. If you do not agree with the decision of the Office of the Prosecutor General, you have the right to lodge a complaint with a court within 10 days.

Granting access to the criminal file, hearing applications and presenting charges (4)

For what purpose is access granted to the criminal file?

All the evidence collected during the criminal investigation and the summary of the pre-trial proceedings describing the circumstances of the crime are added to the criminal file. Allowing you as the suspect access to the criminal file is necessary so that you are aware of the charges against you and the grounds on which they are made.

When will I be able to see the criminal file?

If you have been declared a suspect, the criminal file will be made available to you after the criminal investigation is complete.

How is access to the criminal file granted?

As of the moment the criminal file is made available to you, you must have a lawyer (see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1). The Prosecutor’s Office will give a copy of the criminal file to your lawyer. Your lawyer will inform you of the contents of the criminal file.

How much time do I have to review the criminal file?

No specific time limit is set for reviewing the file. If the Prosecutor’s Office finds that the process of reviewing the criminal file is being protracted, a time limit may be set. The Prosecutor’s Office must grant enough time to ensure that you can actually exercise your right to defend yourself.

What is the purpose of submitting applications?

After you have reviewed the criminal file, you and your lawyer have the right to submit applications to the Prosecutor’s Office. The purpose of submitting applications is to guarantee that the criminal investigation is carried out thoroughly and fairly.

You have the right to request that:

  • additional investigations be conducted;
  • new evidence presented by you be included in the file;
  • material that is irrelevant to the case be removed from the file, etc.

You also have the right to request that the Prosecutor’s Office terminate the criminal proceedings if, in your opinion, there are no grounds for continuing with them. In addition, you have the right to request that the case be dealt with through a simplified procedure which is laid down by law (e.g. the settlement procedure) without a normal full trial.

How are applications submitted?

Applications are submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office in written form. They must be submitted within 10 days of reviewing the criminal file. If the criminal case is large and complex, the Prosecutor’s Office may extend this period to 15 days (Section 225 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which entered into force on 1 September 2011).

How are applications resolved?

The Prosecutor’s Office reviews applications within 10 days. If the Prosecutor’s Office does not satisfy an application, a ruling will be drawn up and a copy of it forwarded to you. If your application is rejected at this stage, you can still raise it again during the trial.

When is the charge presented?

After you have reviewed the criminal file and the Prosecutor’s Office has made a decision concerning your applications, you will be charged if the Prosecutor’s Office is convinced that there is sufficient evidence to put you on trial.

How is the charge presented?

The Prosecutor’s Office will draw up an indictment. This is a document setting out the circumstances on which the charges are based and the evidence confirming them. The Prosecutor’s Office will give the indictment to you and your lawyer and send it to the court.

Can the charges be changed before the trial?

The court can only hear a case on the basis of an indictment. The Prosecutor’s Office can change or supplement the charges, but in this case a new indictment must be presented.

I have already been tried on the same charges in another country. What happens in that case?

If you have been found guilty on the same charges in another country or if criminal proceedings in relation to the charges have been terminated, you cannot be charged again with the same crime. In such a situation, if the criminal proceedings against you were initiated in Estonia, they must be terminated without you being charged with the crime.

Can my case be resolved by means of a settlement?

After you have reviewed the criminal file, you have the right to apply to the Prosecutor’s Office to start negotiations in the settlement procedure. If the Prosecutor’s Office agrees, negotiations will begin with you and your lawyer to agree on the legal definition of the act of which you are accused and the punishment for it.

If you reach an agreement as a result of the negotiations, it will be written down and submitted to the court for endorsement. If the court endorses the agreement, you will be convicted of the crime on the conditions set out in the agreement that you made.

Additional information for non-residents (5)

What is the European Arrest Warrant?

The European Arrest Warrant#_msocom_2[A2] is a request issued by a body of a Member State of the European Union to another Member State of the European Union with a view to the detention and arrest of a particular person and the surrender of that person to the requesting country so that that country can continue criminal proceedings or imprison the person concerned.

What are my rights if I am detained on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant?

When you are detained, the basis for your detention must be explained to you and you must be informed that you can agree to be surrendered to another Member State. If you agree to be surrendered, you cannot change your decision later. As of your detention you have the right to free legal aid and to have the assistance of an interpreter.

How is my surrender to another Member State decided?

The decision to surrender or to refuse to surrender you is taken by a court. You, your lawyer and the prosecutor will attend the court hearing. The court must hear your opinion about your surrender. The court will issue a ruling whereby your surrender is agreed or refused. You have the right to lodge an appeal against the ruling with a district court within three days as of receiving the ruling. The district court will review the appeal within 10 days and its decision is final.

How quickly is my surrender to another Member State decided?

If you have agreed to be surrendered, a decision must be made within 10 days. If you have not agreed to be surrendered, the final decision to surrender or to refuse to surrender you must be made within 60 days of your arrest. In extraordinary cases this period may be extended by 30 days. If the court ruling on your surrender has entered into force, you must be extradited to the country that submitted the request within 10 days. If you are not extradited within this period, you must be released.

Under what circumstances can I be extradited to another country?

If another country has initiated criminal proceedings against you and drawn up a warrant for your arrest or if a court in that country has imposed a custodial sentence on you, that country can apply for your extradition. If Estonia has received a request from another country for your extradition or a request through Interpol for your arrest, you may be detained and arrested for the duration of the extradition procedure. During the extradition procedure you may be kept under arrest for up to one year. A court will decide whether your extradition should be allowed.

Can I contact the embassy of my country if I am arrested?

If you are a foreign citizen, a copy of the warrant for your arrest will be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will inform the embassy or consulate of your home country. You have the right to request a meeting with a consular official from your country.

Will I have the possibility of using an interpreter if I don’t speak the local language?

The investigating body and the Prosecutor’s Office must ensure that you are able to use the assistance of an interpreter. The interpreter must be present for all of the procedural acts in which you participate. The interpreter is obliged to translate all information relating to the procedural act precisely and in full. Only interpretation is provided, not written translation.

You can request to have the indictment translated in written form into your native language or another language you understand. Other documents which are part of the criminal proceedings are not translated in written form.

Must I be in the country during the criminal proceedings? Can I leave the country?

You do not need to be in the country during the criminal proceedings and you can leave the country, but you are obliged to present yourself at the investigating body when required in order to enable it to perform a procedural act. The investigating body can prohibit you from leaving your place of residence without its authorisation.

If you wish to leave your place of residence for longer than 24 hours, you need authorisation in advance from the investigating body. If you do not present yourself at the investigating body when required or you violate the prohibition on leaving your place of residence, you may be arrested.

Can I be questioned from a foreign country by means of telecommunication, e.g. video link?

The investigating body may question you in a foreign country by live video link. Questioning of this nature is possible only with your consent.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure in English (does not contain all the amendments)

Last update: 08/08/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница естонски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

3 - My rights in court

Where does the trial take place?

All criminal cases are resolved by Link opens in new windowcounty courts. In general, the decision is made by a single judge. Criminal cases involving a crime of the first degree are heard by a court made up of the president of the court and two lay judges.

Is the trial public?

The trial is public.

The court can declare that the trial will be held partially or fully in private:

  • to protect state or business secrets;
  • to protect morals, family or private life;
  • in the interests of a minor;
  • in the interests of administering justice, including in cases where a public trial may endanger the security of the court, the parties to the proceedings or the witnesses.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

Before the end of the court hearing the Prosecutor’s Office may change the charges or add charges against you. If this happens, the Prosecutor’s Office will draw up a new statement of charges. This will not be done if the charges are changed to your benefit. If the charges are changed, you and your lawyer have the right to request that the trial be postponed, so you can prepare your defence.

What happens if I plead guilty to some or all the charges during the trial?

Your confession is treated as one piece of evidence of the crime. If you plead guilty, the Prosecutor’s Office still has to prove your guilt with other evidence.

Must I be present at the trial? Can it be carried out without me?

It is obligatory for the accused to participate in the trial. Exceptionally, the trial can be carried out without you in the following cases:

  • where you have created a disturbance at the trial and ignored the judge's orders, and been sent out of the courtroom as a result;
  • you are outside the Republic of Estonia, and have failed to appear in court and it is possible to hear the case in your absence;
  • where after your interrogation in the court you are in such a state that you are unable to continue participating in the trial and it is possible to hear the case in your absence.

If I live in another country, can I participate via video link?

The court has the right to allow you to participate in the trial via video link if it is problematic for you to appear in court. This is possible only with your consent.

Will I be provided with translation if I do not understand what is going on?

If you cannot understand the language of the trial, the court must provide you with an interpreter during the trial. Only interpretation is provided (no written translation).

Must I have a lawyer? Will I be given a lawyer?

You must have a lawyer and if you have not selected a lawyer yourself, one will be appointed for you by the Estonian Bar Association (see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1).

Can I speak during the trial? Must I speak during the trial?

You have the right to speak during the trial and express your opinion about all the circumstances of your case. You do not have to speak during the trial and you have the right to remain silent.

What happens if I do not tell the truth during the trial?

The accused is not obliged to tell the truth in court. If you do not tell the truth, no sanctions can be imposed on you. If during the trial it is proved that you have lied in court, your entire testimony (including the truthful part) may be considered unreliable. In that case your testimony is not considered as evidence.

Can I challenge the evidence which is presented against me?

You have the right to present objections to the evidence given against you to the court. The evidence will not be allowed to be used in court if it was obtained in fundamental breach of the law. You have the right to challenge the reliability of the evidence as well as whether it is legally admissible.

You and your lawyer may challenge the evidence orally and in writing during each stage of the proceedings until the end of the trial.

What kind of evidence can I present on my behalf?

You have the right to present in court all evidence which is relevant to the case and has been obtained legally.

What conditions apply to my evidence?

Generally, in order to present new evidence, a request must be submitted after reviewing the criminal file or at least three working days before the preliminary hearing. However, it is also possible to present new evidence during the trial if it was not possible, for objective reasons, to present it earlier.

Can I use a private detective to collect evidence?

You have the right to use a private detective in order to obtain evidence. Evidence collected by a private detective is admissible in court if the private detective has obtained the evidence without breaching the law.

Can I request witnesses to speak in my favour?

You have the right to request that people who have important information which is necessary for resolving your case be invited to the court.

Can I or my lawyer ask questions of other witnesses in my case? Can I or my lawyer challenge what they say?

You, and your lawyer, have the right to question all the witnesses. You have the right to express your opinion about the relevance and truthfulness of the witness’s statements. You have the right to present evidence which will prove the witness’s statements wrong or cast doubt on their reliability.

Will information about my previous offences be taken into account?

Only the information about your previous offences which is recorded in the Link opens in new windowpunishment register and has not been removed from your criminal record (an offence is removed from your criminal record within 1–15 years of serving your sentence, depending on the severity of the offence) may be taken into account.

Information from other countries about your previous offences can also be taken into consideration. The offences to be taken into account in court must be set out in the statement of charges. In the case of certain crimes, the fact of having committed a similar crime previously may result in a more severe punishment being imposed.

What are the possible outcomes of the trial?

After the hearing, the court either acquits or convicts you. You will be acquitted if, during the trial, it is not proved that the crime was committed or that you committed it. You will also be acquitted if the Prosecutor’s Office drops the charges. You will be convicted if it is proved in court that you committed the crime.

If you are found guilty, the court will impose a punishment on you according to law. The possible punishments are:

  • a fine, which may be 30 to 500 times your average daily income;
  • imprisonment for between 30 days and 20 years, or a life sentence.

If you agree, the court can replace imprisonment with community service.

In certain circumstances, the court may also decide to grant you probation. If this is the case, you will not have to serve the original sentence or you will only have to serve part of it, unless you commit a new crime during the probation period. The probation period is 3 to 5 years.

In addition to the principal punishment, the court may impose additional punishments, such as prohibiting you from engaging in certain activities or expelling you from Estonia. Also, any property connected with the crime can be confiscated.

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

The victim has the right to participate in the trial, make statements and present evidence, demand damages to cover losses caused by the crime and express an opinion about the sentence proposed by the Prosecutor’s Office for your punishment.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure in English (may not contain all the amendments)

Link opens in new windowPenal Code

Link opens in new windowPenal Code in English (may not contain all the amendments)

Last update: 08/08/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница естонски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

4 - My rights after the court has made its decision

Can I appeal the judgment?

You have the right to appeal the judgment. You can appeal both your conviction and the sentence. You have the right to appeal the entire judgment or part of it.

How do I appeal?

You must inform the court which convicted you that you wish to lodge an appeal. You must do that in writing within 7 days of the court decision being made public. This can also be done by fax.

The appeal is to be presented to the court which made the judgment within 15 days of the date when you first got the opportunity to review the judgment. The appeal is to be made in writing and sent to the court by mail or by fax. Appeals drawn up by the Prosecutor's Office and the legal counsel are also sent to the court electronically.

The court which issued the judgment sends the appeal and the criminal file to the Link opens in new windowdistrict court#_ftn1.

What happens if I appeal?

If you appeal, the initial judgment will not be enforced until the district court has made its decision. If you have been arrested before the judgment is made, or after that, you will not be released on the basis that you have appealed. You can be kept under arrest until a decision is made on the appeal. There is no time limit set by law for consideration of the appeal, but it must be carried out within a reasonable time.

Can I present new evidence for my appeal? What conditions apply?

You have the right to present new evidence on appeal, if you have a valid reason for not having presented this evidence before.

What happens at the hearing in the court of appeal?

At the hearing in the district court the arguments raised in the appeal will be considered. If you do not appear in court, the district court can consider the appeal without your participation. Having considered the appeal, the district court can:

  • dismiss the appeal;
  • amend the judgment of the court of first instance or make a new judgment;
  • annul the judgment of the court of first instance and terminate the criminal proceedings;
  • annul the judgment of the court of first instance and send the case back there to be reconsidered.

Is a further appeal possible if the first appeal fails?

It is possible to submit an appeal in cassation against the decision of the district court to the Link opens in new windowSupreme Court.#_ftn2 An appeal in cassation can be submitted only through a lawyer.

If you wish to make an appeal in cassation, you must inform the district court within seven days of the appeal decision being made public.

The appeal in cassation itself must be presented within 30 days of the day when you first had the opportunity to review the decision of the district court. The appeal in cassation is presented to the Supreme Court through the district court which made the appeal decision.

The Supreme Court has the right to decide whether to hear the appeal in cassation or not. If the court refuses the cassation procedure, no reason need be given.

When is the conviction final?

The conviction becomes final when the judgment enters into force. This happens when the time limit for lodging an appeal or an appeal in cassation has lapsed. In the case of an appeal in cassation, the judgment will enter force if the Supreme Court has either refused the cassation procedure or made a decision in the case.

If my appeal is successful, will there be a record of the conviction?

Your conviction will only be recorded in the punishment register if it is enforced. If the Supreme Court annuls the decision of the court which convicted you, the conviction is not recorded in the punishment register.

If the first decision was wrong, will I get any compensation?

You have the right to compensation for the harm caused to you if you are deprived of your freedom without reason. You can apply for compensation by writing to the Link opens in new windowMinistry of Finance within 6 months of the entry into force of your acquittal or the ruling which brings the criminal proceedings to an end.

The amount of compensation is fixed and equals 7 times the minimum daily salary in force in the Republic of Estonia for every day spent under arrest. In addition, you have the right to demand that the state reimburse the money that you paid to your lawyer.

I am from another country. Can I be sent back there after the trial?

If you are a foreign citizen, living legally in Estonia, and you have been convicted of an intentional crime and sentenced to prison, the court may, as an additional punishment, decide to expel you from Estonia and prohibit you from entering Estonia for 10 years. Since expulsion from Estonia is also a punishment, you have the right to appeal it.

If you do not have the right to live in Estonia, your expulsion from Estonia takes place automatically without a court decision. You have the right to challenge your expulsion by lodging a complaint with the Link opens in new windowAdministrative Court. The fact that you have challenged your expulsion will not postpone it for the duration of the court procedure.

I was convicted; can a new trial be brought against me on the same charges?

If you are convicted, a new trial cannot be brought against you on the same charges.

Will information about my conviction be registered and how will this information be stored?

Information about your conviction is entered in the Link opens in new windowpunishment register. The register is kept by the Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice and is administered by the Link opens in new windowCentre of Registers and Information Systems. The information entered in the register is public, except in cases specified by law.

The information can be forwarded to foreign government bodies if so permitted by international agreements. The information about your punishment is kept without your consent. The data will be deleted after the expiry period provided by law (1–15 years from serving the sentence depending on the severity of the offence).

Related links

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure#_ftn3

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure in English (may not contain all the amendments)#_ftn4

Link opens in new windowPunishment Register Act

Link opens in new windowPunishment Register Act in English (may not contain all the amendments)#_ftn6

Link opens in new windowCompensation for Damage Caused by State to Person by Unjust Deprivation of Liberty Act #_ftn7

Link opens in new windowCompensation for Damage Caused by State to Person by Unjust Deprivation of Liberty Act in English (may not contain all the amendments)#_ftn8

Link opens in new windowObligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act#_ftn9

Link opens in new windowObligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act in English (may not contain all the amendments)

Last update: 08/08/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница естонски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

5 - Traffic offences

How are minor traffic offences dealt with?

Punishments for exceeding the speed limit and breaking parking and other traffic rules are imposed in misdemeanour proceedings.

The misdemeanour is dealt with by the Link opens in new windowpolice either at the location where the offence is discovered or at a police station.

There is no obligation to punish you on the spot. Instead you may be issued with a warning, or a cautionary fine may be imposed (up to EUR 15). It is also possible that a decision is made in the expedited procedure on-the-spot and a fine of up to EUR 400 is imposed. The on-the-spot procedure can be carried out only with your consent. Audio or video recordings may be made of statements made by the person regarding the crime.

If you break the speed limit and are caught by a speed camera, a cautionary fine can be imposed on the owner or registered user of the vehicle. The maximum cautionary fine is EUR 190. The fine notice is sent to you by post. If you do not agree with the fine notice, you have the right to challenge it within 30 days of receipt. The complaint should be submitted to the police station which sent the fine notice to you. If the natural person responsible for a motor vehicle disputes the imposition of a fine because the vehicle was being used by someone else, he or she must state in the complaint the first name and surname of the person using the car at the time noted in the fine notice, as well as that person's address, driving licence number and date of birth or personal ID number.

If you do not agree with the opinions of the police about the alleged offence, you have the right to object to the on-the-spot procedure. In that case the police will draw up documents about the offence on the spot, but the punishment will not be imposed immediately.

The documents will be forwarded to the police station whose officials must collect evidence regarding the offence. If you are questioned, you have the right to remain silent. You have the right to have a lawyer and an interpreter present. You have the right to review the material collected during the misdemeanour proceedings and object to the charges.

You can submit your objections within 15 days of receiving the misdemeanour report. You will be told when it is possible for you to get a copy of the decision made on the misdemeanour from the police. In order to obtain a copy, you or your lawyer must go to the police station. It will not be sent by post.

Traffic offences may be punished by a maximum fine of EUR 1 200. For a serious traffic offence you may be arrested for up to 30 days. A decision on arrest can only be made by a court. You may also be banned from driving for up to 2 years.

If you do not agree with the police's decision, you have the right to lodge a complaint with the Link opens in new windowcounty court. You must lodge the complaint within 15 days of the date when the decision first became available.

Citizens of other Member States of the European Union can also be punished for traffic offences.

Will misdemeanours appear on my criminal record?

Punishments for traffic offences will be entered in the punishment register, except for information about cautionary fines. Information on offences is deleted from the register and is archived one year after the fine imposed for the misdemeanour is paid, the custodial sentence is served, the community service is performed or the driving ban is imposed as a main sanction;

Related links

Link opens in new windowTraffic Act #_ftn1

Link opens in new windowTraffic Act in English (may not contain all the amendments)#_ftn2

Link opens in new windowCode of Misdemeanour Procedure #_ftn3

Link opens in new windowCode of Misdemeanour Procedure in English (may not contain all the amendments)

Last update: 08/08/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Ireland

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected or accused of a crime which is dealt with by a trial in court. For information on minor road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Summary of the criminal process

  • Link opens in new windowAn Garda Siochána have a number of powers to stop and search a person, and powers also to arrest a person they believe to have committed, or to be in the process of committing an arrestable offence.
  • Once in Garda custody a member of An Garda Siochána will explain your rights, and these include the right to speak with a solicitor and a doctor, to have an interpreter present if you require one. There are special provisions for children in custody which provide that an appropriate adult should be present at interviews.
  • At this stage you may be asked to give consent for samples to be taken for DNA testing, give fingerprints, have a photograph taken, and/or participate in an identification parade.
  • During the course of the investigation, a member of An Garda Siochána may charge you with an offence. This may done by way of a Charge Sheet or you may be served a Summons to attend Court on a given date. The Gardai will send a file with details of the investigation to the Link opens in new windowDirector of Public Prosecutions who will decide whether to prosecute the case on behalf of the State.
  • You may be released immediately on ‘Station Bail’ requiring you to appear in Court or you may need to apply to the Link opens in new windowDistrict Court for bail at a later stage.
  • Minor offences, known as ‘summary offences’ are prosecuted at the District Court. More serious offences or ‘indictable offences’ are tried before a Judge and Jury.
  • Throughout the criminal justice process you are always presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
  • You are entitled to legal advice. If you cannot afford to pay for representation, you may apply for Link opens in new windowlegal aid.
  • If you are convicted you have been found guilty of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted in the District Court you have a right to appeal the conviction or sentence. If you are acquitted that is the end of the case, and no further steps can be taken against you.
  • If you are convicted by a Jury of an indictable offence, then there is no automatic right to appeal and you should consult with your legal team on how to proceed.

Details about all of these stages in the process and about your rights can be found in the factsheets. This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 - Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • Arrest
  • Questioning and the police investigation
  • Searches
  • First court hearing
  • Preparation for trial, or entering a plea of guilty pre-trial

Link opens in new window3 - My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 - My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 - Road traffic offences

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

1 - Getting legal advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The fact sheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general fact sheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.

Finding a lawyer

If you are in custody, and need a lawyer, the Gardaí will have a list of solicitors who will be prepared to come and see you urgently to advise you. Their list will consist of people who are known to be available to visit Garda Stations on a 24 hour basis.

If you are not in custody, but require advice from a criminal lawyer you can contact the Link opens in new windowLaw Society of Ireland, who will provide you with the names of solicitors who do criminal defence work. They are not permitted to recommend any one firm.

A better way to find a lawyer specialising in this work is by word of mouth, if you know people who have been in a similar situation before. Alternatively you could try the internet, as many law firms now have websites setting out the kind of work that they do best.

Paying for a lawyer

In Ireland, there is a system of legal aid which can provide the services of a lawyer to a person suspected or accused of an offence, at no cost to the person, in certain circumstances.

If you are detained at the Garda Station for questioning about an offence, and are not working or earn a low wage you will probably be entitled to the services of a solicitor free of charge, under the Link opens in new windowGarda Station Legal Advice Scheme. You have to sign a form for your solicitor, which includes a declaration that you earn under the permitted limit €20,316.00 or are in receipt of social welfare payments. There is no other paperwork.

If you have been charged with an offence, then you are entitled to apply to the judge, at the court where you appear, for legal aid. This is called a Certificate for Free Legal Aid. Your solicitor will help you apply to the court. If you don’t have a solicitor, the judge will often offer you legal aid and choose a solicitor for you. If the charge is a serious offence, and you are not working, you will probably be granted legal aid. If you are working, you may have to fill out a form, declaring your income and outgoings.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCriminal legal aidLink opens in new windowhttp://www.legalaid.ie/

Link opens in new windowLaw Society of Ireland

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime

What is the purpose of a criminal investigation?

The purpose of a criminal investigation is to respond to a complaint of a criminal act by a member of the public or where the Gardaí suspect there has been a breach of criminal law, and to detect the offender(s). It is usually the case that a member of the public will report an incident and the Gardaí will respond by launching an investigation as to whether there has in fact been a breach of criminal law and if so they will begin to investigate the matter further.

Who carries out the investigation?

In almost all cases the right to investigate crime lies with the Irish Police known as Link opens in new windowAn Garda Síochána. The Gardaí may receive legal guidance as to how best to progress their investigation from the Chief Prosecution Solicitors Office (The Director of Public Prosecutions) who are the legal officers who conduct most prosecutions on behalf of the Irish state.

What are the stages of a criminal investigation?

The first stage of a criminal investigation is the making of a complaint by a member of the public or the detection of a suspected crime by a Garda (member of the Irish police). The Gardaí will ascertain whether the incident as reported is a criminal offence and if it is they will begin to investigate the offence.

It is at this stage that the Gardaí will decide whether the suspected offence is deemed to be ‘serious’ or not. The term ‘serious’ means any offence that could in theory carry a term of imprisonment of at least five years. If the offence falls into this category it can be investigated by the Gardaí by using their power to arrest and detain you in a Garda station and during that detention to question you. The rights of arrest, detention and questioning will be discussed later in this factsheet.

If the offence is not one of a serious nature then the Gardaí will have greater restrictions of their powers. They will usually have the power to investigate the alleged crime but not the power to arrest and detain you for the purposes of questioning. They will only have a power to arrest you for the purpose of charging you with the suspected offence. If they do not arrest you for a non-serious offence then they will usually summon you to court to begin the trial process.

The third stage of an investigation will be the gathering of information that may become evidence in a later trial. This information gathering process may take many forms and the rights of the Gardaí to gather this information will be dependent upon the nature of the suspected crime. The right of the police to arrest and question you also gives them limited powers to gather forensic and other forms of potential evidence from you which will be discussed within this factsheet.

The Gardaí will make a decision either themselves or with the guidance of the Link opens in new windowDPP to charge you and what to charge you with. The decision to prosecute crimes of a serious and non-serious nature is often taken by the Gardaí. If the crime is of an unusual or obviously serious nature or one which will require the assistance of the DPP to prosecute then the Gardaí will normally seek the guidance of the DPP.

My rights during the investigation

Click the links below for more information about your rights during the stages of the investigation.

My rights when arrested (1)

If the offence is ‘serious’ then the Gardaí have a power to arrest you and detain you for questioning. This will mean that you are taken into Garda custody and that you are not entitled to leave for the remainder of your lawful custody.

Do the Gardaí need a warrant to arrest me?

No. The Gardaí do not necessarily need a warrant to arrest you if they suspect you have committed the offence that they are investigating.

Where can they arrest me?

The Gardaí can arrest you in your home or in a public place. The Gardaí need only have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed an offence to allow them arrest you.

Must I be told the reason for my arrest?

Yes. The Gardaí must tell you the reason for your arrest.

Can the Gardaí use force when arresting me?

Yes. They can use reasonable force to arrest you.

Once you are arrested

You will be brought to a Garda station for questioning or charge. Your rights when in the police station are protected by law and the Member in Charge of the Garda station will be responsible for your rights. The length of time that you can be kept in a Garda station depends upon the statutory power upon which the Gardaí detain you. Please refer to The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) for further reading on your rights.

Questioning and the police investigation (2)

Will I be given a notice of my rights?

Yes. When you are detained under one of these statutory powers then you will be given a notice of your rights in custody. This notice will be in writing and must be translated into your language if you do not understand English.

Can I notify my embassy?

Yes. If you are not an Irish citizen then you can have your embassy or consulate notified of your arrest.

I am from another country. Do I have to be in Ireland during the investigation?

Not necessarily. If you are not charged after your detention ends then you are free to leave and to travel. If the Irish state wishes to charge you at a later date you can return voluntarily for that purpose or you can challenge your extradition in your home state. If you are charged after your detention ends then you must be brought before a competent court. A judge will then decide whether you should get bail.

Will I be allowed to speak to a solicitor?

Yes. You have the right to speak to a solicitor in private. If you do not know a solicitor then the Member in Charge will help you to find one, from a list kept at the Garda Station.

When can I speak to a solicitor?

If you wish to speak to a solicitor you should not be questioned until your solicitor arrives and then you should be given immediate access to them.

Can I have my solicitor with me when I am questioned?

No. However you have the right to seek further legal advice during your questioning if something arises that you are uncertain of.

What if I cannot afford a solicitor?

If your financial means are limited then you may be entitled to have your solicitor’s advice paid for under the Irish Free Legal Aid system (see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1). However it is always advisable to seek legal advice and the issue of your financial means can be discussed with your solicitor at a later stage in the process.

How long can I be questioned for during my detention and how will I be questioned?

You can be questioned for up to four hours at a time. Your interview must be conducted in a fair manner. It should be recorded on video camera unless it is not practicable. You will only be entitled to a copy of the recording if you are prosecuted and the court makes an order releasing it to your legal adviser. There should only be two Gardaí present in the interview at any time.

Do I have to answer questions?

No. You can remain silent throughout questioning but you should be aware that if you remain silent it may in certain circumstances be used as evidence against you in a later trial. If you refuse to answer certain questions then this refusal may be used with other evidence to support a finding of guilty against you.

If I am asked for information should I provide it?

You are obliged to give your personal details to allow the Gardaí to identify you. You should seek legal advice before deciding to provide any further information. If you are under arrest for the purpose of questioning then you are suspected of a serious criminal offence and any information you provide may become evidence against you in any future trial.

What happens if I say something which is bad for my case?

You have the right against self-incrimination. If your answers are bad for your case then your legal advisers will advise you about the consequences, which will usually be that what you say becomes evidence against you

Do I have to give my fingerprints and allow myself be photographed?

Yes. You can be forced to give your fingerprints and allow your photo be taken if you are detained under a statutory power. It is a criminal offence to obstruct the taking of either fingerprints or photographs.

Can the Gardaí keep my fingerprints forever?

Yes. However you or your legal adviser can write to the Gardaí and ask that the materials taken be destroyed if there is to be no prosecution or if you have been acquitted at trial.

Do I have to give DNA or other more intimate bodily samples?

If you are detained under a statutory power then the Gardaí need authorisation from a senior officer to allow them to take intimate samples such as DNA, saliva, nail clippings, material found under a nail or swab from your mouth. They are not allowed to take a footprint impression, sample from the genital region or bodily orifice without authorisation, unless you consent.

Can my home, business premises, car or other property be searched?

Yes. The Link opens in new windowIrish Constitution and European Convention of Human Rights require that your bodily integrity and privacy are respected, but these rights are limited. The Gardaí may search your home with your consent or without your consent if they have a search warrant or are going onto your property to find you to arrest you. For more information about searches, see Searches (3).

Can I appeal against a breach of my rights?

You should tell your legal advisers about any breaches of your rights and they will advise you as to how and when to challenge such breaches.

Who is the Member in Charge?

The Member in Charge is a member of the Gardaí who is responsible for your welfare and the protection of your rights. Every Garda station must have one present. If you have any problems during your time in custody you should ask to speak to the Member in Charge.

Can I speak to my family?

You are entitled to have a relative informed of the fact you are detained but not necessarily to speak to them.

What if I feel unwell and what about my right to rest and refreshments?

You have the right to medical attention if you need it and you have the right to proper periods of rest and to refreshments during your detention.

Will there be a record kept of my time in custody?

A record will be kept of your time in Garda custody and you or your legal adviser will be entitled to a copy.

What if I do not speak or understand English?

You have the right to have an interpreter to translate on your behalf. You or your legal adviser should insist that the interpreter who interprets any private consultation between you and your solicitor is not the same interpreter who interprets your question and answer session with the Gardaí. An interpreter should be available at all times where either a solicitor or Gardaí wish to communicate with you.

How long can I be detained for?

This depends on the power that determines your detention. The longest period in Irish law is seven days.

Searches (3)

Do I have to be told why my property is being searched?

You can ask and should be told why the search is being carried out and under what power. If your property is searched you will be entitled to a copy of any search warrant at a later stage.

How can the Gardaí carry out the search?

They must carry out their search in compliance with your right to not be degraded.

Can the Gardaí take away anything with them?

Yes. They can seize any items that they reasonably believe they can use as evidence. They can also take away items which may not have been specified on any warrant but which may be evidence of a different criminal offence.

Can I remain in my property when the Gardaí are carrying out a search?

Yes. You are not allowed to do anything which may obstruct a lawful search but you may observe the search.

Can I personally be searched?

Yes. If a Garda has a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a criminal offence then they have powers to search you without your consent.

Do they have to arrest me first?

No. You can be searched prior to arrest.

Do I have to be told the reason for the search?

Yes. The Garda should tell you the reason for the search and the power they are relying upon to search you.

Can I be strip searched?

Yes. You should only be strip searched if it is necessary. A strip search should take place in a private area of a Garda station and not in a manner that causes harassment to you. If possible a doctor should carry out the search.

Will I be searched by someone of the same sex?

If the search is any more than a search of clothing then you should be searched by someone of the same sex.

The first court hearing (4)

Can I be held in custody or released?

You can be held in custody if you are brought from a Garda detention to court and refused bail by the court.

Can I make an application for bail?

In most cases you can apply for bail during your first appearance in the Link opens in new windowDistrict Court (lower court). In limited circumstances (for example the charge of murder) you must apply to the High Court and will therefore have to spend some time in custody before that application.

You are entitled to legal representation and depending upon your income this representation will be paid for under the free legal aid scheme.

Can I be told why bail is being opposed by the Gardaí?

Yes. You must be told in advance about the reasons why the Gardaí object to the granting of your bail. You have a right to bail but it is not absolute. Bail can be refused when a judge is of the opinion that you will if granted bail either not turn up for your trial, interfere with witnesses or commit further serious offences whilst on bail.

Can I be given conditional bail?

Yes. You may be granted bail with conditions such as the surrendering of your passport, residency within the Irish state while awaiting trial and reporting regularly to a Garda station to ensure your compliance with these conditions. The Court may also require you to lodge cash or can order the freezing of a family member or friend's Irish bank account as a guarantee of your commitment to the terms of bail.

Preparation for the trial or entering a plea of guilty pre-trial (5)

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

Yes. You will only be given a trial if you enter a plea of not guilty. If you enter a plea of guilty then you will not be given a trial but rather you will be given a sentence hearing.

What happens?

If you do not seek a trial then you are accepting one or a number of the offences with which you are charged. Plea bargaining has no statutory basis in the Irish state but in practice the DPP may accept a plea to some charges and agree to withdraw others. If you enter a plea of guilty then you will be sentenced at a later date and may or may not be placed in custody before the sentence hearing.

What happens at my sentence hearing?

Unless there is a mandatory sentence, such as life in the case of murder, you have the right to a sentencing hearing and to have your legal advisor address the court in relation to your role in the crime and your personal circumstances.

Can the charges be changed before the trial?

Yes. The DPP can add additional charges up to and during the trial date. They can also withdraw charges up to the trial date. The DPP have the right to serve additional evidence up to and during the trial. The DPP must act in accordance with fair procedures and cannot withhold evidence or disclose materials in their possession which are relevant to you and your legal advisers.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

If you have been charged and tried for an offence in one Member State then you cannot be charged with the same offence in another Member Sate. However if you have been charged in one Member State but the charges have been withdrawn then you may be charged with that offence in Ireland.

Will I get information about the evidence against me?

Yes. You must be given documents (commonly known as a ‘book of evidence’) which comprise of the evidence against you. You must also be given disclosure of the materials which are produced as a result of the investigation into your alleged crime but which the prosecution do not intend to rely upon.

Will I get information about the witnesses against me?

Yes. You can get some limited information about the witnesses against you. You are entitled to know if they have a criminal record. You are entitled to seek information from them during the trial by way of cross examination by your lawyer or by way of private investigation by your legal advisors.

You are not entitled to an exhaustive list of personal details about the witness. You are not entitled to interfere with a witness in a manner that may be seen as an attempt to intimidate them or pervert the course of justice and such an action may result in your bail being revoked or you facing additional and subsequent separate charges.

When will my ‘book of evidence’ be given to me?

If you are to be tried on indictment for a serious crime then you should be given these documents within 42 days from the date of charge. The court has discretion to extend the time period within which the state has to give these documents to you.

What will be given to me?

You will be served a book of documents which contains the basis of the State's case against you. The book is not a total statement of the State's case and they are entitled to serve additional evidence up to and during your trial. The evidence which the State must rely on to secure a conviction will in most cases require to be given orally in court on oath by witnesses.

How do I get my ‘book of evidence’?

You will be given your ‘book of evidence’ by it being handed to you in court by a member of the Gardaí. Additional evidence will usually be served upon your legal advisor at their office or in court.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

Yes. The Gardaí are entitled to seek information about your previous character for the purpose of their investigation and for the purpose of making a decision about your suitability for bail if charged. They are also allowed to refer to your criminal record if you are convicted to allow the Judge(s) determine an appropriate sentence. A record of foreign convictions can be admitted.

Are there any limitations on when they can refer to my previous character?

Yes. They cannot refer to your previous character during your trial unless your legal advisers introduce your character in their cross examination or submissions to the court.

Related links

More detail on the powers of search, detention and charge

Link opens in new windowMore detail on the role of the Gardai

Link opens in new windowChief State Solicitors Office and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

Link opens in new windowMore details on legislation

Link opens in new windowThe Criminal Justice Act 1984 (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Stations) Regulations 1987

Irish Council of Civil Liberties

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

3 - My rights during the trial

What happens before my case comes up for trial?

Before your case comes up for trial, a judge will decide if you should be given bail. You will usually have a right to bail. You can be refused bail if you are unlikely to turn up for your trial, if you have tried or will try to threaten a witness or if you are likely to commit another serious crime.

If you want to rely on an alibi for your trial (i.e. someone who will say you were with them when the crime happened) you will be told by the judge to give the Link opens in new windowProsecution notice of who that is.

You have a right to know what the case against you is before your trial. You should be given statements of the evidence against you when you ask for it.

Where will the trial be held?

You will be given the name and location of the court your trial is being held in. The Link opens in new windowCourts Service of Ireland are in charge of all the courts and can help you find the court you are in.

Minor charges are heard in the District Courts where judges decide the cases alone. More serious charges are heard in the Circuit Courts or Central Criminal Courts where juries give the verdict.

The courts are open to the public. However, where the accused is a child or it is a sexual crime, the case is heard in private.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

In most cases a charge cannot be changed during a trial. Certain charges can be changed if the law allows for it. For example, a charge of dangerous driving can be changed to the less serious charge of careless driving if the judge decides you were driving carelessly but not dangerously.

If you plead guilty to all of the charges during the trial, the judge will then decide what sentence to give. The judge will balance how serious the crime is and what your personal situation is to make that decision. You should be given credit for pleading guilty.

You can also plead guilty to some of the charges and not guilty to the rest. The judge or jury will make a decision on the charges you are contesting. You will then be sentenced for the charges you pleaded guilty to and for the charges you were found guilty of.

What are my rights during the trial?

For most cases you have to be present at your trial. If you fail to appear in court, the judge can make an order to arrest you and bring you to court in custody. The trial can occasionally go ahead without you and you can be convicted in your absence.

If you cannot come to court because of an accident or illness, you should tell your solicitor and provide him or her with a medical certificate explaining your absence.

You have a right to interpretation if you don’t understand what is happening. If you are deaf, you have a right to interpretation by sign-language.

You have a right to defend yourself in your trial if you want. If you cannot afford a solicitor, one can be appointed to you under the Link opens in new windowCriminal Legal Aid Scheme depending on how serious the charge is. You have a right to choose your solicitor. If you don’t know any, the judge can choose one for you. You can change your solicitor if you are not happy with them.

You can speak at your trial if you want, but you don’t have to. It is a criminal offence to lie when giving sworn evidence.

What are my rights in relation to the evidence against me?

You can challenge the evidence given against you if it was obtained unlawfully. For example, if the police went into your house without a search warrant, any evidence they got while there will usually not be allowed.

You can also challenge the evidence by asking witnesses questions to show they are lying or mistaken. You can also ask witnesses to give evidence which is relevant to your defence, or shows the prosecution witnesses are lying or mistaken.

You can hire a private detective to obtain evidence for you. The evidence is admissible as long it was lawfully obtained.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

Evidence of your previous convictions cannot Link opens in new windownormally be taken into account during your trial.

However, when judges are deciding what sentence to give you they can take your previous convictions into account. That can include any previous convictions from other countries.

What happens at the end of the trial?

If you are found not guilty, the trial is over and you can walk free.

If you are found guilty or plead guilty, the judge will decide what sentence to give you. You might have to pay a fine or serve a Link opens in new windowprison sentence. The judge might suspend your sentence as long as you don’t commit more crimes.

The judge might ask the Probation Services to write a report about you before giving out your sentence. They will tell the judge if you are suitable for supervision to deal with whatever problems cause your criminal behaviour.

If asked, the Probation Service will tell the judge if you are able to do Community Service. The judge may then order you to do up to 240 hours of unpaid work instead of a jail sentence.

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

The victim’s role during the trial is as a witness for the prosecution. They will give evidence about what they saw happen in relation to the charge.

If you are convicted or plead guilty, the judge will take into account the impact of the crime on the victim.

Related links

Link opens in new windowDatabase of Irish legislation

Link opens in new windowDatabase of Irish and British case law

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 - My rights after the trial

Can I appeal?

You can appeal against any conviction or sentence. The Link opens in new windowway you appeal will depend on which court has heard your case. Appeals from the District Court are heard in the Circuit Court. Appeals from the Circuit Court or Link opens in new windowCentral Criminal Court are heard in the Link opens in new windowCourt of Criminal Appeal.

If you want to appeal from the District Court, you must give a document called a ‘notice of appeal’ to the prosecutor within 14 days. You must also lodge the notice of appeal and declaration of service to the court clerk of the area within 14 days. If you want to appeal from the Circuit Court or Central Criminal Court, you must apply to the trial judge for permission to appeal within three days of the conviction. You must then serve a ‘notice of appeal’ on the Registrar of the Court of Criminal Appeal within seven days if permission has been refused and within 14 days if permission has been granted. Normally, your lawyer will do all of this for you.

If you are appealing from the District Court, you are entitled to a full rehearing of your case. You are also entitled to appeal your sentence. If you are appealing from the Circuit Court or Central Criminal Court, you can appeal on a point of law or if you believe your trial was unsatisfactory. You can also appeal your sentence.

What happens if I appeal?

If you appeal from the District Court, the conviction will be set aside until your appeal is heard. This will require you to enter into a bond, called a recognisance, which may require the payment of a sum of money. If you are in prison when you appeal from the District Court, you are entitled to be released once you have served the notice of appeal and entered into your recognisance. If you are in prison and you want to appeal, the prison authorities will provide you with the proper forms.

If you appeal from the District Court, it may be a number of months before the appeal is heard. If you appeal from the Circuit Court or Central Criminal Court, it may be considerably longer before the appeal is heard.

If you appeal from the District Court you are entitled to produce new evidence and make different legal arguments for the appeal. If you appeal from the Circuit Court or Central Criminal Court, you are generally not allowed to produce fresh evidence and you can only do so where there are exceptional circumstances.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

If you appeal from the District Court, you are entitled to a full rehearing of the case. If you appeal from the Circuit Court or the Central Criminal Court, you or your lawyer may address the court on why you think your conviction should be overturned or why you think your sentence is wrong in principle.

What happens if the appeal is successful/unsuccessful?

If the appeal is successful, the case is over and you have no further obligations in respect of the case. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the appeal court will affirm your conviction. If the appeal court thinks the sentence is wrong in principle, it can increase or decrease the original sentence.

Once your appeal has been heard, there is no further right of appeal. However, the Court of Criminal Appeal may allow you to appeal to the Supreme Court if there is a point of law of exceptional public importance.

There is no general provision for you to be compensated if your appeal is successful. When you appeal a conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeal, compensation may be available if you have suffered a miscarriage of justice. This occurs when the Court of Criminal Appeal overturns a conviction and certifies that a newly discovered fact shows that there has been a miscarriage of justice. This very rarely happens. If the Court of Criminal Appeal certifies a miscarriage of justice, you may apply to the Link opens in new windowMinister for Justice for compensation.

A conviction is recorded against you once the judge has found you guilty of an offence.

The conviction is final once you have been found guilty or you have pleaded guilty. However, you still have the right to appeal. If your appeal is successful your record should be free from any convictions.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back there after the trial?

If you are convicted of a criminal offence, the court cannot send you back to your country. However, the court may recommend to the Minister for Justice that you should be deported. It may also suspend your sentence or part of your sentence on condition that you leave the country. This does not mean that you are deported but if you fail to leave the country, you will be imprisoned. If you are in prison you may apply to the Minister for Justice to be transferred out of Ireland to serve the remainder of your sentence in another Member State.

If I am convicted, can I be tried again for the same crime?

If you are convicted, you cannot be tried again for the same crime. If you have been convicted in another Member State, you cannot be tried again in Ireland for the same crime.

Information about the charges/conviction

Your criminal record will have any convictions against you. If you are an adult, this information will be kept on permanent record by the Gardaí (national police force). The Gardaí may also have other information about you. You have the right to have inaccurate personal information about you corrected or erased. You can request this information from the Link opens in new windowGarda Central Vetting Unit. If the Gardaí will not allow you access to this information or will not correct inaccurate information, you have the right to apply to the Link opens in new windowData Protection Commissioner.

Related links

Link opens in new windowIrish Courts

Link opens in new windowCitizens Information Board

Link opens in new windowData Protection Commissioner

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Road traffic and other minor offences

How are minor road traffic offences dealt with?

Minor offences, such as speeding, driving while using a mobile phone (cellphone), or illegal parking, are usually dealt with by a “fixed penalty notice”, which gives you a fixed time to pay a fine by post. Only if you do not pay the fine will the case go to court. Sometimes you will be given a notice on the occasion of the offence, and sometimes one will be sent to your address.

Some fixed penalty offences, however, involve “penalty points” being put on your driving licence, and if you get a total of twelve penalty points in a period of three years, you will be banned from driving in Ireland.  If you pay the fixed penalty notice, you will get fewer points than if the case goes to Court and you are convicted. The European Union is presently working on a project to harmonise all of the driving licence records of the Member States.

Traffic offences are almost always dealt with by the ordinary Gardaí. You should be aware that, in Ireland, drivers are obliged by law to carry their driving licences with them, and must produce the licence on demand by a Garda.

If you live in Ireland, being a national of another Member State, you will be dealt with in the same way throughout the process as an Irish National.

If your case goes to Court, it will be heard in the local District Court (the lowest court) by a judge without a jury.  If you are not satisfied with the result, you can appeal the decision, whether conviction or penalty, to a higher court (see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 4).

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

All traffic convictions are recorded on the Garda computer record. Very minor cases, such as speeding, are not generally regarded as criminal convictions. If however you are charged with a more serious charge, such as dangerous driving, drink driving, or driving without insurance, convictions will become part of your criminal record. Such offences will be dealt with in accordance with the procedure set out in Link opens in new windowFactsheet 4. If you are charged with such an offence, you should seek legal advice urgently.

How other minor offences are dealt with

The most common minor offences are speeding and driving while using a cellphone. Various other offences, such as driving in a bus lane, can be dealt with by a “fixed penalty notice”, but do not attract penalty points.  Driving without reasonable consideration for other road users, which involves careless driving, will attract a fine and penalty points.

You will only go to court if you do not pay the fixed penalty notice. As above, it will be dealt with in the District Court. You can always appeal an order of the District Court, as above.

Last update: 13/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Greece

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected or accused of a crime which is dealt with by a trial in court.

Summary of the criminal process

Investigation/institution of proceedings

This part of the process commences with the Prosecutor being notified that a crime has probably been committed.  It continues with criminal proceedings being instituted and ends with the defendant either being committed to stand trial or any charges being withdrawn.

This stage is aimed at unraveling the case as far as possible and determining whether there are strong indications that the defendant has committed the crime so as to commit them or not for trial by the competent court.

Court hearings

At this stage the case is tried until a verdict is reached and handed down.

Remedies

This refers to the means provided by law to a person to enable them to challenge the decision of a criminal court.

Such means are:

  • an appeal, aiming at the amendment or the quashing of the decision being challenged either on the facts or on points of law.
  • a fresh trial of the case, and a reversal of the judgment with a view to partially or fully annulling the decision being challenged on legal grounds.

Details about all of these stages in the process and about your rights can be found in the factsheets.  This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for general guidance only.

For information on road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission plays no part in the procedures for criminal prosecutions which are adopted in the various Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 – Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 – My rights during the investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

  • Preliminary examination/preliminary criminal investigation/criminal investigation.
  • Arrest/Restrictive terms/Custody
  • Proceedings before the Indictment Division
  • Searches, fingerprints and DNA

Link opens in new window3 – My rights in court

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the court makes its decision

Link opens in new window5 – Traffic violations and other minor offences

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

1 - Getting legal advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.

Finding a lawyer

If you need a lawyer and you are not being held in custody you can contact Link opens in new windowthe Athens Bar Association or the Bar Association of the region where your trial is to take place (e.g. Link opens in new windowThessaloniki Bar Association, Link opens in new windowPiraeus Bar Association, Link opens in new windowHeraklion Bar Association, etc.).

If you need a lawyer and you are being held in custody you can ask the police or the prison authorities, to help you find an attorney or refer you to the above Bar Associations.

Paying for a lawyer

You can receive free legal aid if your income is low. Free legal aid consists of the appointment of an attorney to represent you. The appointment applies until the end of the trial or of the procedure before courts of the same level, as well as any appeal against the decision.

A lawyer can be appointed:

  • during the drafting and filing of charges in the case of certain specifically defined offences,
  • during the criminal investigation stage and the hearing of the case when the crime in question is a felony,
  • during the hearing of the case, for misdemeanors tried by the three-member Misdemeanors Court which attract a minimum sentence of six months’ imprisonment,
  • to file an appeal and represent you during the appeal hearing before the court of second instance, where you have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of at least six months by the court of first instance, 
  • to make an appeal on a point of law where you have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of at least one year,
  • to apply for a retrial where you have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of at least six months.

You are entitled to free legal aid even if your income is not excessively low, as long as you can prove that you cannot pay for legal expenses due to the differences in the cost of living between that of your Member State of permanent residence and that of Greece. 

In order to receive free legal aid and have a lawyer appointed on your behalf, you need to apply to the Court which is to try the case or the Court where your appeal or application for a retrial are to be heard.

This application must be submitted 15 days before the trial or the action for which you are seeking legal aid. The application must include a brief description of the subject matter of the trial or the action as well as evidence of your eligibility for free legal aid and all necessary documentation with regard to your financial status (see in more detail Law 3226/4-2-2004, Government Gazette Α’ 24/2004).

Related links

Link opens in new windowList of Bar Associations

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

What is the purpose of an investigation?

The purpose is to collect and preserve evidence and to obtain any traces left at the scene of the crime.

What are the stages of an investigation?

Preliminary examination/preliminary criminal investigation/criminal investigation:

Through a preliminary examination the Prosecutor establishes whether an accusation is well-founded and what the probability is that a crime has been committed.

The preliminary criminal investigation mainly takes place in cases where the suspect has been caught in the act of committing the offence or if a delay would give rise to an immediate risk.

The criminal investigation is carried out only in the case of more serious crimes.

Arrest – Restrictions – Custody:

Where the suspect has been discovered either committing the crime or is arrested up to one day after the crime was committed, it is possible to arrest them without a warrant.

Where the suspect has not been caught in the act of committing the crime, a warrant is required.

The arrested person is put before the Prosecutor within 24 hours.

Restrictions (e.g. bail, the defendant’s obligation to report to a police station on a regular basis, prohibition on leaving the country) are imposed in order to prevent the commission of further offences and ensure that the defendant attends for police interview and Court.

Custody: If the restrictions mentioned above are insufficient, in cases of more serious crimes, suspects may be remanded in custody. Such custody can last for up to 18 months for major felonies or 12 months for less serious felonies and 6 months for recurrent manslaughter arising out of negligence. This term is served in prison.

Proceedings before the Indictment Divisions

You may have recourse to these either to have the restrictions or the remand in custody set aside, or to complain about any irregularities during the pre-trial process.

Who is responsible for the conduct of each of these stages?

A preliminary examination is carried out by the investigating officers and the Prosecutor.

The preliminary criminal investigation is performed by the people mentioned above including the Investigating Magistrate and finally, the criminal investigation or interview is conducted solely by the Investigating Magistrate.

An arrest is ordered by the Indictment Division or the Investigating Magistrate. In cases where the suspect is found while committing the crime, the investigators and the police officers concerned have an obligation and all citizens have the right to arrest the perpetrator. The restrictions on personal freedom and the remand in custody are ordered by the Investigating Magistrate with the consent of the Prosecutor, and the Indictment Division.

Proceedings before the Indictment Divisions are carried out by three-member judicial councils, in the presence of the Prosecutor.

My rights during the investigation

Click on the links below to find more detailed information about your rights during the investigation.

Preliminary examination, preliminary criminal investigation, criminal investigation (1)

What is the purpose of these procedures?

The purpose of the preliminary examination is for the Prosecutor to establish whether the accusation is well-founded and to decide to begin criminal proceedings.

The preliminary criminal investigation is carried out in cases where the suspect has been caught in the act or if a delay would give rise to an immediate risk (e.g. of footprints or fingerprints being lost etc).

The criminal investigation is conducted only in the case of felonies or major misdemeanors. The preliminary criminal investigation and the criminal investigation take place with a view to establishing, collecting and preserving evidence as well as obtaining the traces of the crime.

Who is responsible at this stage?

The preliminary examination is carried out by the investigating officers and the Prosecutor.

The preliminary criminal investigation is performed by the people mentioned above, plus the Investigating Magistrate.

The criminal investigation is conducted solely by the Investigating Magistrate.

The preliminary examination and the preliminary investigation are supervised by the Prosecutor to the Court of Misdemeanours and the criminal investigation by the Prosecutor to the Court of Appeal.

Are there any time limits which apply?

The preliminary examination lasts for 4-8 months. The criminal investigation lasts a maximum of 18 months. If a supplementary investigation is conducted it lasts for 3 – 5 months.

In major cities these time limits may be extended. There are no sanctions for failure to comply with these time limits.

The time limit for providing explanations during the preliminary examination and entering a plea during the preliminary investigation and the investigation is at least 48 hours and may be extended.

There are no sanctions in the event of your failing to observe the time limit in respect of the first two procedures. However, in the case of a criminal investigation if the time limit set is not met, the Investigating Magistrate has the right to issue a warrant in order to bring the defendant to Court by force and/or an arrest warrant.

What will I be told about what's happening?

As soon as you are summoned to participate in the procedures outlined above, you have the right to:-

  • ask for a photocopy, at your own expense, of all the relevant legal documents from the investigating officer, including a description of the accusations,
  • to ask for a time limit of at least 48 hours and
  • to appoint a lawyer.

Will an interpreter be provided if I don't speak the language?

Yes. The interpreter will translate your testimony to the investigating officers as well as their questions.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

As soon as you appear before an investigating officer, you may ask for your attorney to be notified or to be allowed to call him/her. You also have the right to refuse to testify before your lawyer arrives.

The authorities are only obliged to ensure that an interpreter is available during your examination. For the rest of the time, you have to make arrangements with your lawyer if you need to have an interpreter available.

Is it obligatory for me to be represented by a lawyer? Can I choose my lawyer?

It is mandatory only in the case of felonies. The choice of a lawyer is up to you. However, if you don’t have a lawyer in a felony case then the Investigating Magistrate will appoint one for you during the investigation.

Will I be asked for information?  Should I provide information?

You may be asked about the accusations. You have the right to partial or complete silence and the right not to incriminate yourself. You may refuse to answer anything which might harm you case.

Can I contact a family member or friend?

You have the right to communicate with your family or friends by phone. Visits by family members and exceptionally by your friends are allowed.

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

If you have a health problem you can ask to see a doctor.

Can I contact the Embassy of my country of origin?

Yes, you have the right to do so.

I am from another country. Do I have to be present during the investigation?

No, you don’t.

Can I take part by video link?

In Greece, the law does not provide for participation through video links.

Can I be sent back to my country of origin?

At this stage you cannot be deported.

In what circumstances might I be remanded in custody or released?

You will be held in custody if there are strong indications that you have committed serious offences and

  • you have no known address in Greece,
  • you have taken steps to leave the country,
  • you have been a fugitive from justice in the past ,
  • you have been convicted of escaping from prison or assisting a detained person to escape or of violating place of residence restrictions, as well as if
  • there are reasons to believe you intend to flee,
  • you have previous convictions, making it likely that you will commit further crimes.

You might also have restrictive conditions imposed on you or you may be released.

What rights/obligations do I have?

You are entitled to be allowed time to study the court file and to appoint up to two lawyers. You have to appear in person at the investigation because your lawyer’s presence alone is not enough.

If the Investigating Magistrate decides that you must be remanded temporarily in custody you can appeal within 5 days to the Indictment Division. You can also appeal to the Investigating Magistrate himself/herself or to the Indictment Division for the decision to remand you in custody to be lifted or replaced by other restrictions.

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

Yes you can if no condition has been imposed prohibiting you from doing so.

Searches, fingerprints and DNA

For more information on your rights, see Searches, fingerprints and DNA (4).

Can I appeal?

If there has been invalid action taken as part of the pre-trial procedure you can appeal to the Indictment Division asking for it to be set aside and for the pre-trial process to be repeated.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges prior to the trial?

You can make admissions of guilt at any stage prior to the trial. You can also revoke a guilty plea. In any case, the Court is free to evaluate your confession.

Can the charges be changed before the trial?

The charges cannot change. Only a more precise wording of them is possible. No fresh charges can be added.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

You might be charged if the offence was committed in a foreign country against a Greek citizen and it is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor in Greek law. In the case of serious crimes, Greek laws apply to everyone, regardless of the laws in force at the place of the crime.

Will I be told about the witnesses who have made statements against me?

You are entitled to such information since you can be given all of the documents in the court file, which include the witness statements. You can be given the information before you make your defence, and also afterwards.

Will I be given information about other evidence against me?

The investigator has the obligation to supply you with photocopies of the court file and show you all relevant material before you give you own account.

Will I be asked to provide information about my criminal record?

The Investigating Magistrate will receive your Criminal Record as a matter of course at the criminal investigation stage.

Arrest/Restrictions imposed on freedom/Custody (2)

Why are these actions taken?

Where the offender has been caught in the act of committing a crime his/her arrest aims at ensuring that he/she will be brought to justice. In other instances of arrest, remand in custody and the imposition of conditions on freedom of movement, the aim is to ensure that the defendant appears before the investigative and judicial authorities.

Who is responsible?

Arrest is ordered either by the Indictment Division or by the Investigating Magistrate. Remand in custody and the imposition of restrictive conditions are also ordered by the same people. Where the perpetrator is caught in the act of committing the crimes, arrest can be carried out by the investigators or police officers.

Do any time limits apply?

Once you are arrested you must be put before the Prosecutor within 24 hours. In the event of any failure to comply with this time limit there are no repercussions as far as you are concerned. There is also a time limit on any condition requiring you to report at regular intervals to police. In the event of your failing to abide by this time limit, a remand in custody may be substituted for the reporting condition.

What will I be told about what's happening?

When caught in the act of committing a crime, as soon as you are arrested, the police officers must tell you why you have been arrested. If you are put before the Investigating Magistrate, you will be fully advised as to the charges you are facing. The same thing applies in the event of conditions being imposed limiting your freedom and in case of a remand in custody.

Before any decision on these matters is reached, you should have received all the relevant legal documents from the Investigating Magistrate.

Will an interpreter be provided if I don't speak the language?

If you don’t speak the language you must make this known at once and ask for an interpreter. The interpreter will translate everything you say, all the questions put to you and any documents shown to you.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

If arrested, you can request that your lawyer is notified immediately or that you be allowed to make a phone call. Furthermore, you have the right to refuse to answer questions if he/she does not turn up.

If you don’t know a lawyer you can contact your embassy or the local bar association. Having an interpreter available in order to be able to communicate with your attorney is a matter for you, not the investigating authorities. In the event of conditions restricting your movements being imposed or a remand in custody, speak to your lawyer first. He/she will make representations on your behalf and will be present during the criminal investigation.

Do I have to be represented by a lawyer? Can I choose my lawyer?

It is mandatory only in cases of felonies. You have the right to select your lawyer. In a felony case though, if you don’t have a lawyer, then one will be appointed for you during the investigation, if you request it.

Can any sort of request for information be put to me? Do I have to give any information I am asked to provide?

You will be asked about the accusations. You may refuse to answer anything which might harm your case

Can I contact a family member or friend?

You have the right to ask the investigators to let you contact them.

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

Yes, if you have any health problems.

Can I contact my Embassy if I am from another country?

Yes, you have the right to do so.

I am from another country. Do I have to be present during the investigation?

You are not obliged to, unless a body search is required.

Can I take part by video link ?

Investigation of an offence via video link has not yet been enshrined in law.

Can I be sent back to my country of origin?

At this stage you cannot be deported.

In what circumstances might I be remanded in custody, or be released?

You will be remanded in custody if the Investigating Magistrate agrees with the Prosecutor or if the Indictment Division orders it. You will be remanded in custody if there are strong indications that you have committed serious offences and:

  • you have no known address in Greece ,
  • you have taken steps to leave the country,
  • you have been a fugitive from justice in the past,
  • you have been convicted of escaping from prison or assisting a detained person to escape or of violating place of residence restrictions, as well as if
  • there are reasons to believe you intend to flee,
  • you have previous convictions.

You might also have restrictive conditions imposed on you or you may be released.

What are my rights and obligations?

You are entitled to be allowed time to study the court file and to appoint up to two lawyers. If you are remanded in custody you can appeal within 5 days to the Indictment Division against this decision by the Investigating Magistrate. You can also appeal to the Investigating Magistrate himself/herself or to the Indictment Division for the decision to remand you in custody to be lifted or replaced by conditions restricting your freedom of movement.

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

You can do so after your arrest period is over and provided that no condition has been imposed prohibiting you to leave Greece.

Seaches, fingerprints and DNA

For information on your rights, see Searches, fingerprints and DNA (4).

Can I appeal?

If there has been invalid action taken as part of the pre-trial procedure you can appeal to the Indictment Division asking for it to be set aside and for the pre-trial process to be repeated.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges prior to the trial?

You have the right to make admissions of guilt and there should be no positive or negative repercussion for you in law as a result of your doing so.

Can the charges be changed before the trial?

The charges cannot change; only a more precise wording of them is possible. No new charges can be added.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

You might be charged if the act was committed in a foreign country against a Greek citizen. In the case of serious crimes, Greek laws apply to everyone, regardless of the laws in force at the location where the crime was committed.

Will I be told who the witnesses are who have made statements against me

Certainly. As soon as you are arrested and produced for preliminary investigation or investigation in chief, you must be given this information before you give your own account.

Will I be given information about other evidence against me?

The investigator has the obligation to provide you with photocopies of all documents in the court file before you give your account.

Will I be asked to provide information about my criminal record?

No. This information will be sought from the appropriate department.

Proceedings before the Indictment Divisions (3)

What is the purpose of this stage?

The Indictment Divisions are the competent judiciary bodies for the pre-trial procedure. They monitor the legitimacy of actions taken by the investigating officers, they decide whether the defendant should be remanded in custody or not, whether conditions restricting freedom of movement should be imposed or not, take decisions on other sensitive issues affecting the pre-trial procedures, and decide whether the defendant should stand trial or be released.

Who is responsible at this stage?

The Indictment Divisions consist of 3 judges and are the Misdemeanor Court Indictment Division, the Court of Appeal Indictment Division and the Court of Cassation Indictment Division.

Do any time limits apply?

Yes, there are time limits and if you don’t comply with them you won’t be able to exercise your rights.

What will I be told about what's happening?

You can get information on the progress of your case from the Secretariat of the Councils and you will be duly notified of any decisions.

Will an interpreter be provided if I don't speak the language?

If you appear before the Councils you are entitled to an interpreter.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

You are entitled to legal advice and may communicate with your legal adviser at every stage in the proceedings. If any issue with regard to translation arises, either you or your lawyer should take care of it.

Do I have to have legal representation? Can I choose my own lawyer?

It is not mandatory. If you wish to do so, you can either represent yourself or be represented by your lawyer. You have the right to select your own lawyer, unless he/she has been appointed for you.

Can any sort of request for information be put to me? Do I have to give respond?

You may be asked to provide information regarding the crime of which you are accused. You have the right to silence and not to incriminate yourself. You can refuse to answer any question that might harm your case.

Can I contact a family member or friend?

Yes, you may. If you are in custody you can do so during visiting hours.

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

Yes, if you have health problems.

Can I contact the Embassy of my country of origin if I am from another country?

You have the right to do so.

I am from another country. Do I have to be present during the investigation?

Only if you request it and the Court allows it.

Can I take part by video link etc.

Procedures via video link have not yet been enshrined in law.

Can I be sent back to my country of origin?

At this stage you cannot be deported.

Will I be held in custody or released? In what circumstances?

You will be remanded in custody if the Indictment Division directs it. You might also have conditions imposed on your freedom of movement or you might be released.

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

You can do so after your arrest period is over and provided that no condition has been imposed prohibiting your exit from Greece.

Will I be asked to provide fingerprints, samples of my genetic material (DNA) (e.g. hair, saliva), or other bodily fluids?

The Indictment Division might order it.

Might I be subjected to a body search?

Not by order of the Council, but possibly by the investigators or the preliminary investigation officials. In any such case, you may request that your lawyer be present during the search.

Can my home, business premises, car etc be searched?

No searches of this sort can be ordered at the stage where the Councils are involved.

Can I appeal?

There are remedies you can use to appeal against decisions of the Councils.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges prior to the trial?

You have the right to admit you are guilty and you can do this by submitting a memorandum to the Councils. Such statements are binding and can affect the court judgment.

Can the charges be changed before the trial?

The charges cannot change. They can only be more precisely specified by the Councils. No new charges can be added.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

You might be charged if the act was committed against a Greek citizen. In the case of serious crimes, Greek laws apply to everyone, regardless of the laws in force at the location of the crime.

Will I be told about the witnesses who have given statements against me?

Of course, you can receive information both during this stage and before.  You have the right to receive information about any detail on the court file.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

No, information will be sought from the relevant department.

Searches, fingerprints and DNA (4)

Will I be asked to provide fingerprints, samples of genetic material (DNA, e.g. hair, saliva), or other bodily fluids?

If arrested, you will be asked to provide your fingerprints and you are obliged to do so. It is also mandatory to provide a DNA sample if there are strong indications that you have committed a serious crime. In the event of a positive DNA result you have the right to ask for it to be tested again; if you don’t, the genetic material taken will be destroyed.

Might I be subjected to a body search?

You might have to undergo a body search if the person carrying out the investigation deems it necessary. The search must not be an affront to your dignity and it must be conducted in a private place. If you are female, the search must be carried out by a woman. If you are asked to hand over a certain item or document and you do so, you should not be subjected to a body search.

Can my home, business premises, car etc be searched?

Your home can be searched provided that the search is carried out by an officer of the court and an investigating officer in the context of an investigation or a preliminary investigation. Cars are searched if there is a strong suspicion that a criminal act has been committed or if it is absolutely necessary.

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

3 - My rights in court

Preliminary procedure

Who warns me to attend court and how do they do it?

The Prosecuting Attorney draws up the indictment, sets the date for the trial and summons the defendant, the complainant and the witnesses at least 15 days prior to the trial, or 30 days if they live in other European countries.

The procedure during the hearing

Which court will hear the case?

The main criminal courts are the Magistrates’ Court for infringements, the Misdemeanor Court for misdemeanors and the three-member Criminal Court of Appeal or the Mixed Grand Jury for felonies. As a matter of principle, the competent court is the court which is local to the area where the offence was committed.

Will the trial be in public?

Yes, unless the publicity might have an adverse effect on public morals or there are reasons for protecting the privacy of the litigants.

Who will decide the case?

The decision is made by judges at the lower courts and a combination of judges and a jury at the Mixed Grand Juries.

Can the charges be altered in the course of the trial?

It is possible for a charge to be amended to a similar one. It is the court alone which rules on what the proper legal definition is of the facts which constitute the subject matter of the case, or on the most precise specification of them.

What happens if I plead guilty to some or all of the charges in the course of the trial?

If you plead guilty to particular charges, the court will punish you in respect of those admissions. You may be treated more leniently when it comes to the imposition of sentence.

What are my rights during the trial?

Do I have to be present at the trial?

 

You do not have to be present. You can be represented by your lawyer, unless the court deems your presence to be necessary.

If I live in another Member State, can I participate by video link?

You cannot because this way of participating is not yet provided for by the law.

Will I be present for the whole of the trial?

You do not have to be. You can appear and then leave and continue to be represented by your lawyer.

Will I have an interpreter available to me if I don't understand what's going on?

If you do not understand the language of the court, the court is obliged to appoint an interpreter.

Do I have to have a lawyer? Will a lawyer be allocated to me? Can I change my lawyer?

You must have a lawyer only in the case of felonies and at the Court of Cassation. If you are unable to appoint one, the court is obliged to appoint a lawyer for you. You have the right to change your lawyer unless he/she has been appointed at the higher courts by the court itself (ex officio).

May I address the court? Do I have to speak during the trial?

You may but you do not have to. You have the right to remain silent.

What will the consequences be if I don't tell the truth during the trial?

You have the right not to tell the truth. It is not a criminal offence for a defendant to give an untruthful account of himself.

What are my rights in relation to the evidence against me?

Can I challenge the evidence against me?

 

You may and you have the right to do so during your defence or by giving evidence yourself, by adducing evidence in rebuttal or by calling your own witnesses.

What kind of evidence can I put before the court in my defence?

 

You can produce documentary evidence, lay witnesses and expert witnesses.

In what circumstances can I introduce such evidence?

 

There are no pre-conditions; you can present evidence to the court without having given notice to anyone.

May I engage a private detective to search for evidence for me? Is such evidence admissible?

 

You can do so and the evidence will be admissible as long as it has been obtained legitimately.

May I summon witnesses in my defence?

You may put forward as many witnesses as you wish and the court must allow examination of a maximum of as many defence witnesses as there are prosecution witnesses.

May I or my lawyer put questions to the other witnesses in the case? May I or my lawyer challenge what they say?

Both of you may ask questions and cast doubt on what they say in evidence.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

Convictions involving a total of more than 6 months imprisonment will be taken into account if a guilty verdict is returned and when the court is deciding on the sentence.

Will previous convictions in another Member State be taken into account?

Only if they have been added to your criminal record.

What happens at the end of the trial?

What are the possible outcomes of the trial?

 

The Acquittal of the defendant, when the court is not convinced or is in doubt about whether he/she has committed the crime, or for other legal reasons, and when there are grounds for dispensing with punishment (e.g. in the case of genuine remorse).

The Conviction of the defendant and imposition of a sentence, when the court is convinced that the defendant has committed the crime.

The discontinuation of the criminal proceedings in the event that the defendant dies, the victim withdraws the accusation, the crime is time-barred, or the offence itself becomes the object of an amnesty.

Declaring the criminal prosecution as inadmissible, when there is a previous relevant decision, there is no accusation (if required), claim or authorisation for prosecution.

Summary of possible sentences

Main penalties:

 

Imprisonment (for life or for a period of 5-20 years), confinement (10 days - 5 years), detention (1 day -1 month), a financial penalty (150-15.000 euro), a fine (29 - 590 euro), confinement in a juvenile detention centre, or confinement in a mental health institution.

Supplementary penalties:

deprivation of civil rights, prohibition on the exercise of a profession, the publication of the conviction.

Security measures:

The detention of criminals judged to be not criminally liable, the commitment of alcoholics and drug addicts to detoxification centres, referral to work centres, prohibition on residence in a particular area, the deportation of foreign nationals, and the confiscation of assets.

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

The victim participates either as a litigant or as a witness. As a litigant (or ‘civil plaintiff adducing evidence in rebuttal’) he/she participates with a view to seeking compensation in the form of financial remedy for emotional damages or mental anguish, or, as a witness, in support of the prosecution case.

If the victim participates as a civil plaintiff he/she must state this before evidence is called.

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 - My rights after the court makes its decision

Can I appeal against the decision and/or the sentence?

You can file an appeal against the conviction. The right to appeal depends on the type and the severity of the sentence, as well as which court it is that has handed it down.

For example:

  • in the case of the One-member Misdemeanor Court, you have a right of appeal if the sentence consists of a term of imprisonment of more than 60 days or a financial penalty of more than 1.000 euro;
  • in that of the Three-member Misdemeanor Court and the court which hears appeals against decisions of the latter, you have a right of appeal if you are sentenced to imprisonment of more than 4 months or a financial penalty of more than 1.500 euro;
  • in the case of the Mixed Grand Jury or the Three-member Court hearing appeals against sentences for felonies, you have a right of appeal if the sentence consists of a term of imprisonment of more than 2 years in the case of felonies, or more than 1 year for misdemeanors).

You may appeal against an acquittal only if you have been acquitted on grounds of genuine remorse or having been vindicated on grounds which reflect on your good name.

How do I appeal?

To file an appeal you have to draw up a Statement of Appeal and submit it to the Registry of the Court that issued the decision, to include the grounds of appeal, your home address and the name of your attorney.

The time limit for the filing of an appeal is 10 days from the court’s decision being made, or service thereof if you have been tried in your absence. However if you live abroad and a default judgment has been issued or your place of residence was unknown, the deadline is extended to 30 days from the date of service of the documents.

What are the grounds of appeal?

An appeal can be based either on the facts of the case or on how the law was interpreted.

What happens if I file an appeal?

The case will be re-tried by the court of second instance.

What happens if I am in prison when I file the appeal?

The appeal will be forwarded to the Public Prosecutor’s office, a trial date will be set and you will be summoned to appear at the Court. You can ask that the enforcement of the penalty is suspended until the appeal is heard, subject to certain legal conditions.

How long will it be before the appeal is heard?

Usually between 1-3 years depending on the offence, the location of the Court and whether or not the defendant is in custody.

Can I call on fresh evidence for the appeal?

Yes you may call on fresh evidence at the Court of Appeal. The procedure is the same as that at the original trial. The judges who heard the case at the court of first instance cannot try the case at the court of second instance. The questions of whether the appeal has been properly filed and within the specified deadline will be examined.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

If you fail to appear, either in person or through your legal representative, your appeal will be dismissed and the sentence of the lower court will be upheld. If you do appear, either in person or through your legal representative, the case will be retried and you may call fresh evidence.

What can the court decide?

The Court of Appeal has no power to impose a more severe sentence than the one imposed by the lower court. It can however acquit you or reduce the sentence or impose the same sentence as the one imposed by the lower court.

What happens if the appeal is successful/unsuccessful?

If the grounds of appeal are upheld, the Court of Appeal may acquit you or reduce your sentence; otherwise the decision of the court of first instance will remain in place.

Is there a further right of appeal to another or higher court?

No, the only the only thing there can be is the reversal of the judgment of the court of second instance if there have been legal irregularities.

If the initial decision is proved wrong, will I be entitled to compensation?

There is no provision for any award of compensation in respect of an unsafe conviction by a court of first instance unless you have served prison time and are then acquitted on appeal.

If my appeal is successful, will a record be kept of the conviction?

Only a record of the judgment of the Court of Appeal will be kept. The earlier judgment is struck out.

When does a conviction become final?

A conviction becomes definitive if no appeal on points of law is filed against the decision of the court of second instance or if an appeal has been filed and then dismissed by the Supreme Cassation Court (the Areios Pagos).

I come from another Member State. Can I be sent back there after the trial?

You may be sent back to your country if the court orders your deportation. In order for you to be deported, you have to have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of at least 3 months, or the deportation order has to have been made as part of a supplementary penalty, or security measures have to have been imposed. In cases, in particular, of convictions for felonies relating to drugs, deportation is mandatory and is valid for life.

Does removal take place at once?

No, you must first serve your sentence. As an exceptional measure, if you have been sentenced to prison for a period of up to 5 years and an order for your deportation has been made, the court may decide to suspend your sentence and allow your immediate deportation.

Deportation has to be ordered as part of a court judgment where the sentence has not been suspended and has been served.

You may file an appeal if the order has been issued by a court of first instance and you have also been sentenced to a term of imprisonment against which there is a right of appeal. The appeal must be submitted to the Registry of the court of first instance.

Can I be tried again in another Member State for the same offence?

It depends on the legislation of the state in question.

Will information about the charges and/or the convictions affecting me be added to my criminal record?

Only if the decision to convict you is irreversible will it be entered on your criminal record. This information will be officially entered in the Criminal Records Bureau.

Your criminal record is destroyed:

  • after you die or after you turn 80;
  • if you are convicted with reprieve it is destroyed 5 years after the end of the period of suspension, provided that it has not been lifted or revoked in the meantime;
  • when 10 years have elapsed since serving a term of imprisonment of up to 1 month for a premeditated offence or 2 months for an offence involving criminal negligence, provided that you have not been convicted for other crimes in the meantime.

Your consent is not required to keep this information.

If there is any dispute, you may ask the Public Prosecutor to the Court of Misdemeanors for a ruling. You can then file an appeal against this decision to the Misdemeanor Indictment Division within a month of the decision being served.

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Minor road traffic offences

How are minor road traffic offences dealt with?

Traffic violations, such as exceeding the speed limit, driving whilst having consumed alcohol,  not wearing a seat belt, failure to observe a red traffic light or STOP sign, failure to comply with stopping or parking regulations, the use of a mobile phone while driving etc., are mostly dealt with administratively. They are generally dealt with by the competent police authority

What is the procedure?

You will be served with a ticket, confirming the violation you have committed. Noted on the ticket will be the administrative measure and/or financial penalty which has been imposed and you will then have to appear before the relevant police authority.

What are the possible penalties?

Those guilty of traffic violations are mostly punished with administrative fines (varying from 40 to 2,000 euro) and the imposition of other administrative measures like loss of driving licence or loss of circulation details, such as vehicle license and registration plates,  for a certain period of time. It should be noted that financial penalties are reduced by 50% if paid within ten days.

Are nationals of other Member States proceeded against for infringements of this sort?

They are proceeded against if they have committed the infringement in Greece.

May I raise objections?

You may submit your objections to the administrative penalty within three days to the authority to which the officer who has imposed the penalty belongs. If your objections are not upheld you must pay the relevant sum to the appropriate body of the local authority.

In addition, if an administrative measure has been imposed, you may appear before the competent Police Authority and set out your objections.

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

They will not be recorded on your criminal record since they are dealt with at an administrative level and it is only an administrative penalty which is imposed.

Related links

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница испански е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Spain

The Spanish Constitution recognizes the dignity of people, their inviolable rights, free development of personality, respect for the law and for the rights of others. The Constitution itself includes people’s fundamental rights and freedoms, reflecting the Link opens in new windowUniversal Declaration of Human Rights and international Treaties and agreements on human rights ratified by Spain.

The general fundamental rights contained in the Spanish Constitution are developed in national law. The rights of defendants are set out in specific laws governing each type of case (Code of Criminal Procedure, for criminal cases, Code of Civil Procedure, for civil cases, etc.).

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected of or accused of a crime which is dealt with by a trial in court. For more information on minor offences like road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Summary of the criminal process

The following is a summary of the normal stages in the criminal process.

Commencement

Facts that could be considered crimes appear:

  • Through an arrest made by the police;
  • Through a report made to the police;
  • Through a court complaint.

The person under arrest goes to the police station to make his/her statement to the police, if he or she wishes to do so. If he or she wants, he or she will be taken to the court to give his/her declaration.

Opening the criminal proceedings

The criminal investigation department conducts an investigation into the facts of an event which might constitute a crime under the control of the Judge in charge of the preliminary investigation and the inspection of the court’s prosecutor.

At the end of the investigation there are two possible outcomes:

  • No crime has been committed. The investigation is closed and so are the proceedings. The proceedings end without holding a trial;
  • Evidence points to the existence of a criminal offence. Criminal investigations are opened.

Trial

The proceedings are sent to the Link opens in new windowPublic Prosecutor’s Office to file a bill of indictment and to the counsel for the defence so that he/she can file a statement of defence. Afterwards, the judge sets a date for trial.

When the trial has come to an end, the judge delivers a judgment, which may be:

  • a judgment against the defendant
  • a judgment for the defendant

An appeal may be filed with a Higher Court against the judgment. This is the end of the procedure.

Details about all of these stages in the process and about your rights can be found in the factsheets.  This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 – Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 – My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • Arrest
  • Police questioning
  • Statement before the judge

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 – Road traffic and other minor offences

Related links

Link opens in new windowSpanish Constitution

Last update: 12/03/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница испански е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

1 - Getting Legal Advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.

Finding a lawyer

You will always be entitled to be defended by a lawyer appointed by you; if you do not have sufficient financial resources, you can apply for legal aid, as a detainee or a suspect.

If you need a lawyer and you have not been arrested, you can look at the Spanish Bar Association's Link opens in new windowlist of available lawyers.

Furthermore, you can contact the closest Bar Association if you have not been arrested so far:

Paying for a lawyer

People whose income is less than double the Link opens in new windownational minimum wage are entitled to legal aid. If you are turned down for legal aid, you must pay for the legal aid lawyer.

Related links

Link opens in new windowSpanish Bar Association information about legal aid

Link opens in new windowInformation about free legal advice

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice information about legal aid

Last update: 12/03/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница испански е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

What are the stages and what is the purpose of a criminal investigation?

The purpose of the investigation and the preliminary criminal investigation is to gather evidence related to the commission of a crime and to determine who might have committed the crime

The criminal investigation has two stages:

  • Police investigation: The police investigate the facts and the suspects to find out if a crime has been committed, what the circumstances were, or if nothing happened. They contact the alleged suspects, search for relevant evidence and witnesses.
  • Court investigation: If the police find any evidence that points to the existence of a crime, the judge in charge of preliminary investigations will investigate the facts and take the evidence that s/he considers necessary, question the people involved, may visit the scene of the crime, question witnesses, examine expert reports, etc.

If the judge considers that no crime has been committed, he or she will file the case, and no trial will be held (no need to adjudicate). Otherwise, the trial stage will begin.

The Link opens in new windowPublic Prosecutor’s Office must be kept informed during the criminal investigation and, if it decides that the evidence does not point to the existence of a criminal offence, it may request the closure of the proceedings.

My rights during the investigation

  • Right not to make a statement;
  • Right not to give evidence against myself;
  • Right to be presumed innocent;
  • Right to respect for my physical and moral integrity;
  • Right to respect for my dignity;
  • Right not be discriminated against on grounds of age, sex, religion, opinion, nationality or any other personal circumstance;
  • Right to be assisted by a defence lawyer of my choice or by a legal-aid lawyer;
  • Right to remain silent;
  • Right to have an interpreter if I do not understand the language;
  • Right to be heard;
  • Right to challenge the evidence against me.

For more detailed information about your rights during the various stages of the investigation, click on the links below:

Arrest (1)

Can I be arrested? And, if so, who can arrest me, why, and for how long?

The arrest can be for as long as necessary to investigate the facts and you may be held for a maximum of 72 hours. During the arrest, a civil servant or the judge in charge of the case, will inform you of your rights and will explain to you what is happening, the crime you are accused of and the reasons for your arrest. After the arrest you will be released or you will be brought before the competent court.

How will I be arrested?

The arrest must be proportional and cause the least possible damage to your physical and moral integrity. Everything possible will be done for you not to be in contact with other detainees.

Can I ask for a lawyer and an interpreter?

Yes, you may choose a lawyer but, if you have no lawyer, a legal-aid lawyer will be assigned to your case. You can speak to him after making your statement.

Can I ask for an interpreter if I don’t understand the language?

If you don't understand the language you may ask for an interpreter to assist you.

Can I contact a family member or a friend?

You may not contact anyone, but you may ask the police to call an acquaintance of yours to inform him/her that you have been arrested. They will ring whoever you want them to ring after you have been advised of your rights.

You may also ask the police or the court to see a doctor if you need one.

What happens if I am from another country?

If you are a national of another Member State, the police will notify your consulate that you have been arrested. If you are a foreigner you must be present during the investigation unless, after you have given your statement, the judge authorises you to leave. Furthermore, if the judge so decides, you may appear via video-conferencing.

What happens if I am a minor?

The police will notify your parents or guardian and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the facts. If you are a foreigner the consulate of your country will be notified of your arrest.

Can I be held in solitary confinement?

If the judge orders it, you may be held in solitary confinement. In this case, you may not speak to your family or inform anyone about your arrest. A legal aid lawyer will be appointed for you, but you may not contact him.

What happens if there is a European Arrest Warrant issued against me?

You will be informed about it and you may challenge it, although it will be difficult to prevent its enforcement. You will have to give a statement before the Link opens in new windowNational Court in Madrid and you will be assisted by a lawyer and an interpreter (if you need one).

Police questioning (2)

What will happen during police questioning?

The police will ask for information to find out if you have been involved in the crime. You are under no obligation to give a statement; you have the right to remain silent. If, however, you want to speak, you have the right to be heard.

Will I have the right to be assisted by a lawyer?

You have the right to choose a lawyer that you trust; otherwise, a legal-aid lawyer will be appointed for you.

Can I speak to my lawyer?

You can speak to your lawyer after you have been questioned at the police station and before and after giving your statement at the court. Sometimes the police can be present during the meeting between a detainee and his/her lawyer, until the detainee gives a statement or refuses to give a statement.

Can I have an interpreter?

You may request the assistance of an interpreter if you do not understand the language.

Am I under an obligation to make a statement?

You are under no obligation to testify or to plead guilty. If you testify you may say something that may damage you and have an adverse effect on your interests. If you want to do so, you have the right to testify before a judge.

Will whatever I say be important?

Everything you say will be important; it will be included in the police report and may be used as evidence at the trial.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

You may plead guilty to all or some of the charges from the very first moment. Despite that, the investigation will most probably carry on so that your testimony can be verified and, if appropriate, a trial can take place. Depending on the type of penalty and offence, an accelerated trial may be held.

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

You may leave the country provided you have not been prohibited from doing so, but you will have to return whenever you are summoned.

What can they ask during the investigation?

During the investigation the authorities may ask for your fingerprints, DNA samples, hair, saliva, or other bodily fluids. You may refuse.

Can there be a body search?

Yes, there may also be a body search. You can only require that the body search should be carried out with respect.

Can my home, business premises or car be searched?

The police may search your home, business premises or car and other places of interest for the investigation, if they have a search warrant and if the court clerk keeps a record with two witnesses. If you have been arrested, your lawyer may be present. If the reason for the search is insufficient, your lawyer may appeal in writing to the judge who authorised it.

What can the consequences be?

If you have been arrested you will remain in provisional custody; if you are released, some security measures may be imposed (bail, regular appearances, withdrawal of your passport, etc.).

Testimony before the judge (3)

Will I give my statement before the judge?

You will give your testimony before the judge after you have given a statement at the police station, and within a maximum time limit of 72 hours after you were arrested.  This time limit may be extended. You may give testimony any time you wish to do so.

How will I give testimony?

Your testimony will be oral and you may be assisted by an interpreter if you do not speak the language correctly.

What can the judge ask me?

The judge may ask you whatever he or she thinks fit in order to clarify the facts and to determine your involvement in the crime which you have been charged with.

You may be asked about:

  • your particulars;
  • your personal circumstances;
  • your place of work;
  • if you have previously been indicted;
  • for what crime, before which judge or court;
  • what was the outcome of the procedure;
  • what the conviction was;
  • if you served the sentence;
  • if you can read and write;
  • if you know why you have been arrested and what your rights are, etc.

The questions must be clear; no leading questions are allowed.

Can I meet with my lawyer?

You can meet with your lawyer before and after giving your testimony before the judge.

Am I under obligation to tell the truth?

If you give testimony as the suspect you are not under an obligation to tell the truth.

Can I take a break during questioning?

If you are tired during your questioning, you can take a break.

Can I read my statement?

Once you have made a statement you have the right to read it.

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

Yes, provided leaving the country has not been prohibited, but you will have to return every time you are summoned.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

You may plead guilty to all or some of the charges from the very first moment. Despite that, the investigation will carry on, to verify your testimony and, if appropriate, begin the trial. Depending on the type of penalty and offence, an accelerated trial may be held.

Can I be charged with crimes other than the initial ones?

You may not be charged with crimes other than the initial ones.

Can new charges be added?

Yes, if related offences appeared.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

Yes, if you have not been tried for this offence before.

Will I get information about the witnesses?

You will be informed of the names of the witnesses who will give evidence against you.

You will also be informed of the evidence submitted against you.

Can I be sent back to my home country?

If your legal residence is in Spain you may not be sent to your home country; you may be sent back to your country only if you have entered Spain illegally.

Will I be arrested?

You will be arrested if there is a risk of flight, i.e. that you might leave Spain without permission, if there is a risk that evidence will go missing, if there is a risk that the witnesses or victims will be threatened, and if there a risk of committing a criminal offence again.  You can appeal and will not be arrested if you post bail.

Related links

Link opens in new windowSpanish Ministry of the Interior

Link opens in new windowSpanish Police

Link opens in new windowGuardia Civil

Link opens in new windowSpanish Constitution

Link opens in new windowSpanish Ministry of Justice - International Co-operation

Link opens in new windowSpanish Criminal Code

Last update: 12/03/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница испански е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

3 - My rights in court

Where will the trial be held?

The trial will normally be held in the area where the offence was committed. The court that hears the case will depend on the nature of the offence; it will be the court whose turn it is in the rotation.

Will the trial be public?

The trial is, in general, public, unless it could be morally damaging, it could have an effect on public order or it could affect the victim or respect for the victim’s family.

Who will decide the case? A judge? A jury?

A judge or a court with three sitting judges will deliver judgment, depending on the offence or the conviction sought. A jury only hands down a verdict on innocence or guilt.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

Exceptionally, the charges can be changed, but only if there is a mistake in the specification of charges.

What happens if I plead guilty to some or all of the charges during the trial?

If you plead guilty during the trial, the procedure will carry on to verify if you actually committed the crime you are charged with.

Will I be assisted by a lawyer during the trial?

You have the right to be assisted by a lawyer of your choice or by a legal-aid lawyer. If you do not like your lawyer, you may ask to be assisted by another lawyer.

Will I have the right to be assisted by an interpreter?

You have the right to be assisted by an interpreter if you do not understand the language.

Will I have to be present at the trial?

If the penalty for the offence in question is less than a two-year prison sentence, you will not have to be present at the trial.

If the penalty for the offence is more than a two-year term of imprisonment, you will have to be present at the trial.

If you are the suspect, you may not appear by way of video conference, even if you live in another Member State.

Will I have to speak at the trial?

You may speak at the trial only if you are asked a question. But, remember, you have the right to remain silent, to refuse to give testimony and not to plead guilty.

What are the consequences if I don’t tell the truth during the trial?

You have the right to remain silent, not to give testimony and not to plead guilty to the crime you have been charged with and not to incriminate yourself. You also have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

What are my rights in relation to the evidence against me?

You have the right to challenge the evidence which is produced against you. Your lawyer will do that when he decides it is necessary.

What kind of evidence can I produce on my behalf?

You may produce all the evidence that you believe is necessary. You may produce the evidence, but the judge will decide if the evidence is admitted or rejected.

Can I use a private detective to obtain evidence for me?

If you believe it is necessary, you can use private detectives to obtain evidence; their reports are admissible as evidence.

Can I ask witnesses to speak for me?

The lawyer will request the admission of witnesses to speak for you. Your lawyer can also question the other witnesses and challenge what they say.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

Yes, your criminal record and previous convictions will be taken into account as aggravating circumstances, both at the pre-trial phase and when judgment is delivered.

Previous convictions in another Member State will be taken into consideration depending on the crime committed.

What happens at the end of the trial?

At the end of the trial, the judge will deliver judgment. The verdict can be not guilty (no culpability) or conviction (you will be found guilty of committing the crime and, if appropriate, the penalty will be decided).

What are the possible outcomes of the trial?

The sentences may be:

  • imprisonment with a suspension of the sentence, if it is the first conviction and the sentence is less than two years;
  • a fine;
  • day -fines (X Euros times X amount of days. If you fail to pay the fine, you will have to serve one day of imprisonment for every two days of fine which is unpaid);
  • community work;
  • disqualification from driving;
  • non-molestation order;
  • prohibition against carrying weapons;
  • disqualification from holding public employment or office;
  • prohibition against living in or visiting certain places, etc.

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

The victim is considered as a witness for the prosecution and will give testimony during the pre-trial stage and during the trial.

Related links

Link opens in new windowSpanish Criminal Code

Last update: 12/03/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница испански е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

4 - My rights after the court makes its decision

Can I appeal against the decision at the trial?

Yes, if you disagree with the judicial decision your lawyer may file an appeal.

Can I appeal against the sentence?

Yes, if you consider that the sentence is unfair, you may appeal against it.

How?

You must appeal file and appeal with a Higher Court, which will hear the case.

What time limits apply?

The time limits vary depending on the procedure. It could be five or ten days.

What are the grounds of appeal?

The grounds that may give rise to the remedy of appeal are the following:

  • Infringement of fundamental rights, possible lack of proper defence
  • Breach of rules
  • Violation of procedural rules
  • Mistake in weighing up the evidence
  • Infringement of the presumption of innocence

What happens if I appeal?

If you file an appeal against the decision, the judge may or may not change. The court of appeal may ratify the first decision or change it.

What happens if I am in prison when I appeal?

If you are in prison when you appeal, you must remain in prison for a maximum period of half of the sentence which you are appealing against .

How long will it be before the appeal is heard?

There is no specified time limit.

Can I produce new evidence for the appeal?

In certain cases, yes, you can. Evidence that is relevant to the outcome of the case, which you did not know about until after the trial, or that had not been taken before, may be produced.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

At the appeal hearing only the sentence being appealed will be discussed. You must bear in mind that it is not a second trial.

What can the court decide?

The court of appeal may decide to reverse, uphold, or deliver a new judgment which is different from the judgment which you appealed against.

What happens if the appeal is successful or unsuccessful?

The judgment will be final whether the appeal is successful or not.

If the appeal is successful the decision of the court in the new judgement will apply, if it accepts totally or in part the arguments made by your lawyer.

If the appeal is not successful, what the court of appeal decides will apply, whether it confirms the previous judgment or it modifies it.

Is there a right to appeal again to a higher/different court?

Yes, you can appeal to the Constitutional Court or to the European Court of Human Rights if your fundamental rights have been infringed.

If the first decision was overturned, will I get any compensation?

In principle, no. However of you wish to do so, you may claim compensation before the contentious-administrative court.

If my appeal is successful, will a record be kept of the conviction?

If the appeal is successful, no record will be kept of the conviction nor will the criminal record for this offence count.

Is further appeal possible if the first appeal fails?

You may exceptionally appeal at a review trial before the Link opens in new windowSupreme Court, if new or previously unknown facts come to light.

When is the conviction final?

When no further appeal is possible.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back there after the trial?

In principle, you will not be sent back to your country. If the conviction is for less than 6 years, it may be replaced with deportation; you may serve the sentence in your home country.

Is transfer automatic?

No, you should request the transfer.

If I am convicted, can I be tried again for the same crime?

No, you cannot be tried twice for the same crime under any circumstances.

Can I be tried in another Member State for the same crime?

No, you cannot be tried twice for the same crime under any circumstances.

Will information about the charges and/or conviction be added to my criminal records?

If the outcome of the appeal is a conviction in which you are considered the offender, this information will be added to your criminal record.

How and where will that information be held?

The information will be recorded in the Link opens in new windowCentral Register of Convicted Offenders.

How long will it be held?

Until it is cleared, depending on the duration of the penalty.

Can it be held without my consent?

The information will automatically be held without your consent.

Can I object to the holding of the information?

You may not object to the holding of the information.

What are my rights if I am sent to prison?

You have the right to:

  • life;
  • not to be discriminated against on account of race, sex, religion, opinion, nationality or any other personal condition;
  • right for your wellbeing to be safeguarded by the government;
  • respect for your physical and moral integrity;
  • respect for your dignity and privacy;
  • to keep in contact with your family and friends;
  • to be visited (if appropriate);
  • to work and be paid for your work;
  • to take part in the activities of the prison;
  • to receive benefits for good conduct;
  • to make claims or complaints and to receive information on your prison and procedural situation.

What are my obligations?

You are under obligation to remain in prison at least until otherwise notified, to comply with the rules and instructions, to actively co-operate in prison co-existence, respect inmates and authorities, appropriately use the prison premises, wash yourself and dress properly, and to take part in the activities organised at the prison.

If I fall ill, can I got to hospital?

Yes, if necessary, you will be transferred to a health care centre.

When will I be released?

When the Court that convicted you or the Penitentiary Judge so decides.

Will I receive financial aid?

If you lack financial resources when you come out of prison, the Government will supply you with some money to go home and will pay for your initial expenses. You are also entitled to unemployment benefit.

Related links

Link opens in new windowSpanish Criminal Code

Last update: 12/03/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Road traffic offences

If the offence committed is subject to an administrative penalty it will be heard at administrative proceedings, which commence when a police officer reports that a person may have infringed the Traffic Law.

If a fine is paid on the spot, with a discount, the procedure is closed then; otherwise, it carries on with a report. This report may give rise to a sanction or not. This document must be signed to acknowledge receipt, although the person may refuse to sign it.

It will include the vehicle's registration, the ID of the subject of the report and the facts. The report will be notified to the alleged offender (in person, by post, through public notices, or through the consulate), indicating the offence, the legal remedies, and the amount of the fine imposed.

The alleged offender has 15 days from receipt of the report to submit a response and produce evidence. If evidence is offered the examining authority may admit it or not (an appeal may be filed against this decision). A decision puts an end to the procedure (it states whether an offence has been committed and, if appropriate, a penalty must be imposed).

An appeal may be filed against the decision up to the point at which it becomes final. Appeals may be filed against decisions before administrative or judicial authorities. The decisions can only be enforced if no further appeal is available.

The fine must be paid within a time limit of 15 days from receipt of the decision imposing a sanction. If the fine remains unpaid at the expiry of the time limit, a collection procedure commences, which involves the attachment of the assets of the person on whom a fine was imposed. In this case the fine and interest for late payment will be paid.

How are speeding and parking offences dealt with?

The sanction will depend on factors such as whether it is an administrative offence, a minor offence or a criminal offence.

Who deals with such offences?

The government deals with administrative offences. Courts deal with minor offences and criminal offences.

What is the procedure?

Trial of a summary or minor offence.

What penalties can apply?

A fine will be imposed and also your driving licence may be withdrawn, you may be ordered to do community work, or to go to prison.

If the road traffic offence involved the death of a person(s), you may be sent to prison and your driving licence will be withdrawn. If you are a persistent offender or if you were driving at more than 90 km per hour (in town), 170 km/h (on the road) or 190 km/h (on the motorway) you may also be sent to prison.

Are such offences pursued against nationals of other Member States?

Yes, in exactly the same way as if they were nationals.

Can I appeal?

You can file an appeal with a Higher Court.

How are other minor offences dealt with?

The examining court deals with other minor offences.

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

No.

Related links

Link opens in new windowSpanish Criminal Code

Link opens in new windowTraffic law

Link opens in new windowTraffic regulations

Link opens in new windowOther rules

Last update: 12/03/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - France

These fact sheets explain what happens when someone is suspected or accused of an offence resulting in trial before a court. For information on minor offences such as breaches of the traffic regulations, usually liable to fixed penalties such as a fine, see Link opens in new windowfact sheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you will find full information on your rights here.

General introduction

The four types of court with jurisdiction to hear cases in France are:

  • The Tribunal de police (police court)

Decisions are made by a single judge in this court which mainly deals with petty offences in category five (e.g. breaches of regulations liable to specific penalties). Appeals can be filed with the Chambre des appels correctionnels (Court of Appeal) but only in certain cases.

  • The Juridiction de proximité (local or community court)

Decisions are made by a single judge in this court which deals with petty offences in the first four categories.

Appeals are governed by the same rules as appeals against police court judgments.

  • The Tribunal correctionnel (criminal court dealing with lesser offences)

Three judges are normally present at this court, which mainly deals with délits (offences not classed as "crimes", the latter being defined as criminal acts punishable by over 10 years of prison, under French law).

Proceedings can be brought in the court within whose jurisdiction the offence was committed, or the court where the accused person or persons reside or where the accused person was arrested.

Appeals against judgments of first instance may be filed before the Chambre des appels correctionnels (Court of Appeal).

  • The Cour d’assises (criminal court dealing with the most serious offences)

This court has jurisdiction over crimes committed by adults that do not come under the jurisdiction of a specialist court.

Cases are heard by three professional judges and nine jurors selected at random amongst French citizens.

Appeals against convictions may be filed by the prosecution service and convicted defendants before a Cour d’assises comprising 12 citizen jurors and three professional judges. The defendant and the public prosecutor may appeal against decisions pronounced by the Cour d'assises, whether these are convictions or acquittals. The civil claimant (partie civile) in the action may only appeal as regards damages and interest awarded by the court.

Summary of criminal procedure

Please find below a summary of the normal stages of criminal proceedings

The inquiry

Conducted by the police or gendarmerie, its aim is to establish that an offence has been committed, to gather evidence and seek the perpetrators. It is conducted under the supervision of the public prosecutor. There will always be an inquiry when the action has been brought by the public prosecutor.

There are two types: the enquête de flagrance (investigation of a recently committed offence) and the enquête préliminaire (preliminary inquiry) conducted ex officio by a CID officer or on the instructions of the public prosecutor.

In all cases, the inquiry is secret and ex parte (i.e. the defendant is not heard).

The pre-trial investigation

The investigation conducted by the examining judge is designed to gather evidence of the commission of an offence and seek its perpetrator. It determines whether there is sufficient evidence to send the perpetrator before the court. It prepares the case for judgment. It is secret, but persons party to the proceedings have access to the case file and can lodge requests for investigations under certain conditions.

The judgment

The judgment phase takes place with due hearing of the parties, in public, oral proceedings. The judges' deliberations result in a decision subject to a remedy at law.

You will find details of all the stages of proceedings and your rights in the fact sheets. This information cannot replace consultation of a lawyer and should only be seen as guidance.

The role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission plays no role in criminal proceedings in the Member States and cannot help you if you wish to complain. These fact sheets tell you how and where you can complain.

Click on the links below to find the information you need.

Link opens in new window1 – Consulting a lawyer

Link opens in new window2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • My rights in police custody
  • My rights during first appearance questioning
  • Being charged and témoin assisté (legally-represented witness) status
  • The completion of the pre-trial investigation
  • The European arrest warrant
  • Preparation of the case by the defence

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 –  Breaches of the traffic regulations and other petty offences

Related links

Link opens in new windowYour Rights

Last update: 30/01/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

1 – Consulting a lawyer

It is very important to get independent advice from a lawyer when you are involved in any way in criminal proceedings. The fact sheets tell you when and under what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you how the lawyer will help you. This general fact sheet will show you how to find a lawyer and how the lawyer's fees will be covered if you are not in a position to pay them.

Finding a lawyer

Except in cases of crime as defined under French law, the assistance of a lawyer is not compulsory but it is advisable.

Freedom to choose a lawyer is a fundamental principle.

You may freely choose a lawyer if you know one or you may ask for one to be appointed.

You may choose a lawyer by "word-of-mouth" if anyone you know is a lawyer or if a friend or relative recommends one.

You may consult the list of lawyers close to where you live, either at the Tribunal d’instance (Court of First Instance) in your town, at many town halls or at the Bar Association closest to where you live.

You may also look in the telephone directory or search on the Internet.

Several sites offer online directories of lawyers, broken down by specialist area:

Many Bar Associations also have contact points in courts of law, town halls or Maisons de justice et du Droit (justice and law information centres).

If you are held in custody, you have several possibilities for choosing a lawyer.

Lists of lawyers are posted inside remand centres.

Associations working in the prison environment can advise you and help you to choose a lawyer. (International Prison Observatory, Association of Prison Visitors, etc.).

The consular services of your country of origin can help you to choose a lawyer.

You may also ask the President of the Bar Association in your territorial jurisdiction to nominate a lawyer to help you.

Paying your lawyer

If you retain a lawyer, you will have to pay fees. The lawyer's fees are established freely by agreement with you.

You may sign a fee agreement with the lawyer, who is entitled to ask you to put down deposits whilst your case is being dealt with.

However, if your means are below a certain ceiling, you may be able to obtain Link opens in new windowlegal aid under certain conditions.

Depending on your income, the State can therefore cover all or part of the court-appointed lawyer's fees. If you are not entitled to legal aid, the court appointment becomes a personal appointment and you must then establish the amount of fees with the lawyer.

If you are only entitled to partial legal aid, you must pay the balance of fees to the lawyer.

Last update: 30/01/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница френски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime

What is the purpose of the criminal inquiry and investigation?

The enquête judiciaire (criminal inquiry) includes all the investigations by the CID, under the supervision of a judge, in respect of the commission of an offence.

The criminal inquiry can be conducted independently of the pre-trial investigation and consists of establishing the offence, gathering evidence and seeking the perpetrators.

A distinction is made between the enquête de flagrance (urgent inquiry) and the enquête préliminaire (preliminary inquiry). The former is undertaken when a crime is being or has just been committed and grants the police strong powers of coercion. The latter is conducted in other cases. Its originally less coercive arrangements have become much closer to those of the enquête de flagrance as a result of recent legislation.

In more complicated cases, an inquiry may also be undertaken as part of the pre-trial investigation and then consists of carrying out the instructions of the examining judge. The pre-trial investigation has the more specific purpose of determining whether there is sufficient evidence to commit the perpetrator of an offence for trial and, if necessary, to prepare the case for judgment.

It is only compulsory in criminal matters.

What are the stages in the inquiry and pre-trial investigation?

An enquête de flagrance can commence when an offence is being or has just been committed, or where a person is suspected of involvement in an offence. This inquiry lasts eight days and may be extended by the public prosecutor, under certain conditions, for a maximum period of eight days.

During the enquête de flagrance, the CID officer may, in particular, travel to the scene of the offence, make findings of fact, seize any objects or proof serving to establish the truth, search the homes of people who appear to have been involved in the offence or who hold documents or information relating to the events, question anyone likely to provide information on the facts, or take anyone suspected of involvement in the offence into police custody.

In the enquête préliminaire, the CID officer advises the public prosecutor as soon as the likely perpetrator of the offence has been identified.

In the pre-trial investigation, the judge investigates the case for and against and does everything he considers useful to establish the truth. He may take action ex officio, or at the request of the public prosecutor or the parties (e.g. attendance at the scene, hearings, searches, etc.). The judge must give reasons for refusing requests and it is possible to appeal against his decision.

In the case of letters rogatory, the examining judge can delegate CID officers to carry out these tasks.

When he considers the pre-trial investigation complete, the examining judge notifies the parties and their lawyers simultaneously. The public prosecutor and the parties then have a period of one month if the person is charged or three months otherwise to send comments or reasoned requests to the examining judge.

After that period, the prosecution has 10 days (if the person who has been charged is in custody) or one month (otherwise) to send its arguments or additional comments to the examining judge in respect of the information received.

The examining judge will then order:

  • either non-suit if he considers that the facts referred to him do not constitute a crime, délit (lesser offence not classed as a "crime" under French law) or petty offence or if the perpetrator is unknown or if there is not sufficient evidence against that person; or
  • committal for trial (in the case of délits and petty offences) or indictment (in criminal matters) when there is sufficient evidence to charge the accused with an offence.

My rights during the inquiry and pre-trial investigation

My rights in police custody (1)

If you are suspected of involvement in committing an offence, the CID officer may take you into police custody. He must immediately inform the public prosecutor or examining judge, as applicable.

For a common law offence, you cannot be detained for more than 24 hours, a period that can be extended once for a further period of 24 hours by the public prosecutor in connection with the inquiry, or by the examining judge in connection with the pre-trial investigation.

There are, however, exceptions to these police custody arrangements. In the case of delinquency or organised crime, drug trafficking or terrorism, detention periods are longer. Moreover, generally speaking, the conditions for placing a person in police custody and the possibility of extending this measure are more strictly controlled in the case of minors.

Failure to comply with the time limit on police custody can result in annulment of the measure and all subsequent acts for which it forms the necessary basis.

What will I be told about the terms of police custody?

The rights of someone held in police custody are basic rights. You must be informed immediately of the nature of the offence to which the investigations refer, the duration of the period of police custody and your rights. This information must be given to you in a language you understand. You may therefore receive the services of an interpreter free of charge.

Records will be kept of the notification and exercise of these rights.

  • Right to inform someone close to you

You have the right to have someone close informed (a person with whom you habitually live, a blood relative, one of your brothers or sisters, or your employer), who will be contacted by telephone by the CID officer within three hours of your being taken into police custody.

  • Right to see a doctor

You have the right to request a medical examination during each 24-hour period of police custody. The doctor will be chosen by the CID officer or public prosecutor.

  • Right to ask to consult a lawyer

You may ask to consult a lawyer for a period not exceeding 30 minutes. This conversation is confidential. The lawyer may make written comments that will be entered in the case file.

You may choose a lawyer if you know one or you may ask for one to be appointed for you ex officio by the president of the Bar Association (a "court-appointed" lawyer).

If taken into police custody for a common law offence, you can consult your lawyer as soon as the period of police custody starts and, if it is extended, at the start of the extended period.

However, you will not be able to consult a lawyer until the 48th or 72nd hour if you are taken into police custody for an offence relating to delinquency or organised crime, drug trafficking or terrorist activity.

The CID officer is considered to have met his obligation when he has made every effort to contact the lawyer.

  • Right to remain silent

You will not be notified of this right by the CID officer, but you are nevertheless free to remain silent and not to incriminate yourself.

  • Right to ask for the consulate of the State of which you are a national to be informed of your arrest

What happens if I do not agree with the way my statements have been transcribed?

You may refuse to sign the record in which they have been transcribed.

What can happen at the end of the period of police custody?

The public prosecutor or examining judge, as applicable, can terminate the period of police custody at any time. You may be set free or, if you have been taken into police custody in the course of an inquiry, be brought before an examining judge with a view to opening a pre-trial investigation, or before the tribunal correctionnel (court dealing with délits).

If a pre-trial investigation is opened, a first appearance hearing will be held and you may then be charged or granted the status of témoin assisté (legally-represented witness, i.e. not simply a witness but to some extent a suspect, meaning that you have rights not afforded to ordinary witnesses). If you are charged, you may be released subject to legal restrictions or remanded in custody.

If you are brought before a tribunal correctionnel, that court may either judge the case immediately if it is in a position to do so, or grant you a period to prepare your defence if you so request. In that case, a decision will be taken on whether to place you on remand or release you subject to legal restrictions.

Will I be asked to provide fingerprints, DNA samples or other body fluids? What are my rights?

If you are a witness or suspect in criminal proceedings, you may be subjected, with authorisation from the public prosecutor, to external sample taking (e.g. saliva samples for the purpose of analysing your genetic fingerprint) and identification procedures (e.g. taking your fingerprints, palm prints or photographs).

You may refuse but, when the aforesaid operations are carried out under legal conditions, refusal to submit to them can, under certain circumstances, constitute an offence punishable by one year's imprisonment and a €15,000 fine.

Can I be subjected to a body search?

In general, a CID officer will carry out a security check (patting down over clothing) designed to ascertain that you are not carrying any object posing a danger to yourself or anyone else.

For security reasons or the needs of the investigation, the CID officer may order a body search involving total or partial undressing. Only a doctor is permitted to perform an internal search on you.

These operations may only be carried out by a CID officer of the same sex as yourself.

All personal effects will be recorded and returned to you at the end of the period of police custody if you are released.

Can my home, office, car, etc. be searched?

A search can only be conducted between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. However, a search that begins before 9 p.m. may be continued into the night.

Exceptions are permitted in cases of organised crime, terrorism, pimping and drug trafficking, under the control of a judge.

A search can be carried out at any domicile where objects whose discovery might help to establish the truth might be found.

This could be your home or that of another person likely to contain objects connected with the offence.

Domicile means the place where an individual has his or her main establishment but also the place, whether or not he or she lives there, which that individual is entitled to call home.

Consequently, various places of residence (e.g. hotel rooms) and their outbuildings are considered as domiciles.

It is up to the judge to assess the notion of a domicile. This means that while a vehicle is not, in principle, considered as a domicile, this does not apply if it is lived in.

Can I lodge an appeal?

Failure to observe the above formalities entails a breach of the rights to defence and can be the subject of an action to annul the search and seizures.

The preliminary investigation: My rights during first appearance questioning (2)

At the first appearance hearing, you will be questioned about the accusations against you.

After checking your identity, the examining judge will remind you of the actions referred to him and their legal classification.

The examining judge will inform you of your rights:

  • You are entitled to a sworn interpreter,
  • You are entitled to the assistance of a lawyer (chosen by you or court-appointed).

You may attend this hearing with your lawyer and you will then be questioned immediately. Otherwise, the examining judge is obliged to inform you again of your right to legal assistance, if necessary from a court-appointed lawyer.

If you choose to be assisted by a lawyer, the latter can consult the case file and report to you under certain conditions.

You have the right to remain silent.

If the actions in respect of which proceedings are being brought against you constitute a crime, you will undergo audiovisual cross-examination.

Can I plead guilty before the trial to all or some of the charges?

You may acknowledge the accusations or just some of them. This is a matter of strategy that should be discussed with your lawyer.

Can the charges/indictment be amended before the trial?

During the pre-trial investigation of the evidence for or against, the classification of the actions referred to the examining judge can be changed (reclassifying a "crime" as a "délit" or vice versa).

If, during the pre-trial investigation, new offences are discovered, the judge may investigate the new developments at the request of the public prosecutor.

Can I be accused of an offence for which proceedings have already been brought against me in another Member State?

If proceedings have been brought against you in another Member State but you have not been judged, you can be questioned on French territory in that regard.

Conversely, if you have been judged in those proceedings in another Member State, you may not, by virtue of the non bis in idem principle (you cannot be judged twice for the same offence), be prosecuted or judged in France.

Will I be told about the witnesses making statements against me and the existing evidence against me?

By virtue of the principles of due hearing of the parties, you will be notified of all elements of proof (witness statements, material evidence) so that you can best prepare your defence and make your comments.

These elements will appear in the case file, copies of which you can obtain through your lawyer following authorisation from the judge.

You and your lawyer must refrain from passing these documents to third parties at the risk of violating the secrecy of the pre-trial investigation.

Will information be requested on any criminal record I may have?

A summary of your past convictions or a statement to the effect that you do not have any must necessarily appear in the pre-trial investigation file.

I am a national of another country. Must I be present during the pre-trial investigation?

By virtue of the obligations that may be established if you are released subject to legal restrictions, you will not be able to leave French territory during the pre-trial investigation procedure.

Being charged and témoin assisté (legally-represented witness) status (3)

Following the first appearance hearing, the examining judge will either notify you that you are being charged or afford you the status of témoin assisté (legally-represented witness).

Being charged means that there is serious or concordant evidence against you allowing a presumption that you have been involved in committing an offence. You are an actual party to the criminal proceedings, which does not apply in the case of legally-represented witnesses.

Conversely, legally-represented witness status means that there is some evidence but this is not sufficiently definite for you to be charged. In this regard, although not party to the criminal proceedings, legally-represented witnesses do have access to the case file, enjoy rights to defence and may ask the examining judge to carry out a certain number of actions.

The two situations have different consequences. Only someone who has been charged can, by justified decision of a judge, be released subject to legal restrictions, known as being placed under contrôle judiciaire, (and thus be forbidden from leaving French territory) or on remand and only such a person can be brought before a court.

You may then apply for conditional release.

If you have legally-represented witness status, you may ask to be charged at any time during the proceedings.

What are the terms of contrôle judiciaire?

You may be released subject to legal restrictions if you are facing a prison sentence or more serious penalty.

Legal restrictions are justified by the needs of the pre-trial investigation (e.g. to prevent you from fleeing abroad) or as a security measure (e.g. ban on meeting the victim). Most of the measures adopted in connection with contrôle judiciaire are designed to prevent the offender from absconding.

This measure may be terminated at any time by decision of the examining judge, by order of the public prosecutor or at your request.

If you make such a request, the examining judge must give his decision within five days.

If you seek to avoid the legal restrictions, you run the risk of being placed on remand.

Finally, you may challenge the order placing you under contrôle judiciaire by appealing to the Chambre de l’instruction (examining chamber, a second-degree jurisdiction).

What are the terms of remand?

To be placed on remand, you must be facing a penalty exceeding a certain level of seriousness, i.e. a prison sentence of three years or more.

Remand can only be ordered if it is the only way of: preserving the proof or material evidence needed to establish the truth; preventing pressure on witnesses or victims and their families; preventing improper consultation between the person who has been charged and the other perpetrators or accomplices; protecting the person who has been charged; ensuring that the person remains at the disposal of the justice system; putting an end to the offence or preventing re-offending; and, in criminal matters, putting an end to an exceptional, persistent breach of public order caused by the seriousness of the offence.

You may challenge the order remanding you in custody within 10 days from notification, by statement made to the head of the penal institution where you are held or the clerk’s office of the court which handed down the decision.

Completion of the pre-trial investigation (4)

The pre-trial investigation may end with various kinds of judge's order:

Non-suit

The judge may order non-suit because he has not gathered enough evidence against you. This may be total or partial.

In the event of partial non-suit, the investigating judge will order committal for trial or indictment for the remaining accusations.

If a total non-suit is ordered and you were on remand, you will be released and the seized objects will be returned to you.

You will be able to bring proceedings for compensation.

Remember, however, that the civil claimant can lodge an appeal against this order within 10 days from notification at the clerk’s office of the court which pronounced the decision.

Committal for trial

If the judge considers that he has sufficient evidence against you, he may decide to send you for trial.

If you were free subject to legal restrictions or on remand, this order terminates those arrangements.

However, the judge may decide, by means of a further order, giving specific reasons, to maintain those arrangements for a period of no longer than two months. If, at the end of this period, you have not appeared before the competent court, you will be released.

The judge may, by issuing an order explaining why it is impossible to judge the case within two months, order two extensions of two months each, but only "on an exceptional basis". If a judgment has not been handed down at the end of the six-month period you will be released.

You do not have any remedy at law against this order, except where you consider that the actions referred to the tribunal correctionnel constitute a crime (rather than a délit) which should have been the subject of an indictment before the cour d’assise. This remedy at law is also open to the civil claimant.

Indictment

This order can be made by the examining judge in respect of crimes.

If you are free subject to legal restrictions when the judge makes the order, that measure will be maintained.

In your capacity as an indicted person, you have the right to appeal against this order.

The European arrest warrant (5)

The European arrest warrant is a procedure intended to replace the extradition procedure between the Member States.

It is a judicial decision issued by a Member State of the European Union with a view to the arrest and surrender by another Member State of a person wanted in connection with criminal proceedings or to serve a sentence or preventive detention measure.

Any Member State may adopt necessary and proportionate coercive measures against a wanted person.

When the wanted person is arrested, he or she is entitled to be informed of the content of the warrant and to receive the services of a lawyer and an interpreter.

In all cases, the executing authority is entitled to decide to keep the person in custody or release him or her subject to certain conditions.

Pending a decision, the executing authority hears the person concerned. The executing judicial authority must take a final decision on enforcement of the European arrest warrant no later than sixty days after the arrest. It must then immediately notify the issuing authority of its decision. However, if the information provided is insufficient, the executing authority may ask the issuing authority for additional information.

Any period of detention relating to the European arrest warrant must be deducted from the total period of deprivation of liberty imposed.

Preparation of the case by the defence (6)

Your relationship with your lawyer is based on mutual trust; he or she is your confidant. In this respect, your lawyer is bound by professional secrecy.

You should therefore be sure to ask all the questions of concern to you and seek all necessary explanations to avoid misunderstandings.

At your first meeting, hand the lawyer all the documents and information related to your case so that he or she can prepare your defence in the best possible way.

Discuss all the questions you have, especially concerning the course of proceedings, the strategy to adopt regarding the choice of procedure or the kind of questions that the judges dealing with your case are likely to ask.

Be sure to ask questions about the outcome of the proceedings, the penalties you face and the sentencing options available.

Last update: 30/01/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

3 - My rights during the trial

If you are of age, you admit the accusations against you and your offence is punishable by a fine or a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, you may take advantage of the procedure known as "comparution immédiate sur reconnaissance préalable de culpabilité" (immediate appearance with prior acknowledgement of guilt). It is compulsory for you to be assisted by a lawyer. This accelerated procedure makes it possible for you to receive a lighter penalty.

Where will the trial be held?

The scope of jurisdiction depends on the nature of the offence and territorial competence. For petty offences, the police court or local court of the place where the offence was committed, or your place of residence, will have jurisdiction.

In the case of délits (lesser offences), the tribunal correctionnel (criminal court dealing with délits) of the place where the offence was committed, or your place of residence or arrest, will have jurisdiction.

Finally, in the case of a crime, the cour d’assises (criminal court dealing with the most serious offences) of the place where the offence was committed, or your place of residence or arrest, will have jurisdiction.

Proceedings in criminal trials are oral and public. By way of exception, the trial may be held in camera, in cases of juvenile delinquency or at the victim's request in cases of rape, torture and acts of savagery accompanied by sexual assault.

In the case of délits and petty offences, decisions are taken by one or more professional judges, whereas the cour d’assises, made up of nine citizen jurors and three professional judges, takes decisions by qualified majority of eight people.

Can accusations/charges be changed during the trial?

Only the accusations described in the document instituting proceedings will be referred to the court, which cannot take other charges into account.

However, the court is entitled during the hearing to reclassify the actions referred to it, on condition that you have been able to submit your comments on the new charges. If this reclassification involves extending the referral to new developments, you must agree to attend on a voluntary basis to answer the charges.

The procedure of pleading guilty does not exist in France. It is only possible, for some offences, to ask to take advantage of the accelerated procedure (immediate appearance with prior acknowledgement of guilt) before any trial. Any confessions you make will be subject to examination and assessed by the judges during the proceedings, like any other element of proof.

What are my rights during the trial?

Your presence is compulsory throughout the trial. Unless you have a valid excuse, you will be judged in absentia except where the court agrees to defer the hearing until your return. However, the court is not obliged to grant such a request. If your lawyer is present, however, he or she may be heard and represent you. In cases involving crimes under French law, a warrant may be issued for your arrest.

In France, the use of videoconferencing is permitted exclusively for the hearing of witnesses, civil claimants and experts.

If you do not understand the language of the court, an interpreter will be appointed for you.

The assistance of a lawyer is mandatory where crimes are involved. It is only optional in the case of délits and petty offences. You may change your lawyer during the trial.

You will be given the opportunity to speak during the trial. However, you have the right to remain silent throughout the proceedings. This stance may have an effect on the judges' intimate conviction.

You cannot be convicted simply because you have lied at the hearing. However, lying will influence the court's decision. Moreover, it might compromise your lawyer's strategy.

What are my rights in relation to evidence put forward against me?

All elements of proof in the case must be submitted for full argument on both sides so that you can debate them. Any form of evidence is admissible in French criminal law and can be produced in all circumstances. You may therefore produce all the elements of proof you need, including those collected by a private detective, the only restriction being that the evidence must be legal.

You may ask for witnesses to be heard. You may put questions, either directly or through your lawyer, to witnesses at the hearing and contest their evidence by any means.

Will information on my criminal record be taken into consideration?

The judges will look at the content of your criminal record. A statement will be on file throughout the proceedings. The competent judicial authority to which your case is referred may possibly ask another Member State for extracts of your criminal record.

What will happen at the end of the trial?

The outcome of your trial will have been considered beforehand with your lawyer, on condition that you have fully informed him or her of your position. It could be discharge, acquittal or conviction.

In the event of conviction, the possible penalties are:

Deprivation of freedom:

  • In the case of crimes, either life imprisonment or a fixed prison sentence. For the latter, the criminal code establishes maximum terms of between 10 and 30 years.
  • In the case of délits, the maximum prison sentence is 10 years.

Penalties involving deprivation of freedom may, if they are not mandatory sentences, be commuted, for example to conditional release, day release or remission.

Other penalties:

  • In all cases, a fine may be imposed, of an amount set for each offence.
  • In the case of délits and petty offences, "reparation" may be ordered, i.e. you may be sentenced to make good the loss suffered by the victim.
  • Supplementary penalties may be imposed, such as community work (with your consent), deprivation of certain rights (driving licence, etc.), confiscation of property, closure of an establishment, withdrawal of civic rights (right to vote, etc.) or ban on issuing cheques. In addition, banishment from French territory (if you are a foreigner) or parts of French territory may be ordered.

What is the victim's role during the trial?

Victims may be present or represented at the trial. Failing this, victims are deemed to have abandoned their suit. The victim may instigate proceedings. The presence of the victim or his/her lawyer at the trial ensures that the victim's interests are protected and reparation can be sought for the harm suffered.

Last update: 30/01/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 - My rights after the court has pronounced its decision

Can I file an appeal?

In the case of petty offences, you may appeal against certain judgments of the police court and local courts within 10 days from their pronouncement, before the Chambre des appels correctionnels (Court of Appeal, Criminal Appeals Division).

In the case of délits, you may appeal against judgments of the tribunal correctionnel (court dealing with lesser offences) within 10 days from their pronouncement, before the Chambre des appels correctionnels (Court of Appeal, Criminal Appeals Division).

For crimes, you may appeal against conviction by the Cour d’Assises (court dealing with the most serious offences) before another Cour d’Assises within 10 days from pronouncement of the judgment.

You may appeal either against the judgment pronounced in the criminal proceedings (sentence) or against the judgment pronounced in the civil action (damages and interest awarded to the victim).

You may also appeal to the Criminal Division of the Court of Cassation against higher court judgments given on appeal and judgments of last resort, within five days of the date when the contested decision was pronounced.

The Court of Cassation, as supreme court, will give a decision within a set period on whether the appeal is admissible; if the appeal is deemed admissible, the Court of Cassation can only rule on the application of law and does not therefore decide on the merits of the case.

Notice of appeal must be given to the clerk's office of the court that pronounced the contested decision or the head of the penal institution if you are detained.

In all cases it is imperative that you sign the notice of appeal.

What will happen if I file an appeal?

During the term of appeal and proceedings before the Court of Appeal, or during the term of appeal and proceedings before the Court of Cassation, enforcement of the contested decision is, in principle, suspended.

However, if you have been sentenced to a penalty involving deprivation of freedom and then placed in detention, appealing against the contested decision does not have the effect of putting an end to detention pending the further decision.

Once the notice of appeal has been registered by the court to which it has been referred, the hearing must be held within a "reasonable" period.

What will happen at the hearing before the Court of Appeal or Court of Cassation?

As criminal proceedings are oral, you have the option of presenting and developing new evidence and elements of proof during the appeal, which will hear full argument on both sides.

Ruling on appeal, the Chambre des appels correctionnels or Cour d’Assises may either confirm or overturn the contested decision.

In certain cases only, particularly where the public prosecutor has filed a principal appeal or appeal on a point of law, you could on appeal incur a heavier penalty than the original sentence and an increase in the damages and interest requested by the civil claimant (victim).

The Court of Cassation, ruling on the application of law, can quash and annul the contested decision and may or may not refer the parties back to the Court of Appeal.

A judicial decision only becomes final when the time limits for exercising the remedies at law have expired.

If, on conclusion of the appeal lodged against the initial conviction, you are discharged or acquitted by a final judgment of the appeal court, you may, subject to certain conditions, apply for full reparation of the material loss and pain and suffering that the "arbitrary" detention has caused you.

You will be informed of your right to obtain reparation upon notification of the decision to discharge or acquit you.

In this regard, you have a period of six months from notification of the discharge or acquittal decision to make an application to the First President of the Court of Appeal in whose jurisdiction the decision was pronounced.

The latter will rule on the application for reparation in a decision stating reasons, pronounced following a public hearing during which you may ask to be heard personally or through your lawyer.

The decision of the First President of the Court of Appeal may be the subject of an appeal lodged before

the Commission Nationale de réparation des détentions (CNR - a national body dealing with applications for compensation for unjustified detention) within a period of 10 days from its notification.

The CNR rules sovereignly and its decisions are not liable to appeal.

The reparation awarded is payable by the State.

What information is contained in the criminal record?

If, on conclusion of the appeal to the Court of Appeal or Court of Cassation, a final judgment has sentenced you to a penalty, the conviction will be recorded in your criminal record held by the judicial administration of your country of origin.

I am a national of a Member State. Can I be sent back after the trial?

By virtue of the Convention on the transfer of sentenced persons of 21 March 1983, transfer to your country of origin may be requested either by the latter or by France, the sentencing state.

However, implementation of the transfer requires your prior, free, and informed consent, which means that you must be fully and precisely informed of the consequences of transfer.

In addition, you may personally request a voluntary transfer to your country of origin. Your request may be accepted if various conditions are met.

If I am convicted, can I be judged again for the same actions?

By virtue of the "Non bis in idem" principle that governs French criminal law, if you have been judged and convicted by virtue of a final judgment in a Member State, you cannot be either prosecuted or convicted for the same actions in another Member State.

Last update: 30/01/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Breaches of the traffic regulations and other petty offences

In France, a number of petty offences, mainly breaches of the traffic regulations, are handled directly by the Administration rather than the judicial authorities. The relevant procedures ensure that your basic rights, particularly rights to defence, are protected. Moreover, an administrative penalty can never consist of deprivation of freedom.

The penalty is imposed on you, ex officio, directly by the competent administrative authority that has noted a breach of a legal obligation. Reasons must be given for any decision imposing a penalty and you may dispute it. The penalty is enforceable immediately, even if you decide to lodge an appeal.

How are minor breaches of the traffic regulations handled?

Breaches of the traffic regulations are handled directly by the officer noting the particulars of an offence, e.g. a police officer or gendarme. If there has been an offence, you will be told immediately what the applicable penalty is. The reasons for the penalty will first be explained to you and you can make comments. You will be given a statement recording your offence and the penalty imposed. You must discharge the penalty as soon as it is imposed.

Penalties consist of a fine of a fixed amount and sometimes the immobilisation of your vehicle.

As a national of another Member State, if you do not comply with the traffic regulations, you will be penalised in France. If you do not discharge the penalty before returning to your own country, it is possible that legal action will be taken against you.

If you do not agree with the decision, you may dispute it within two months. You may be assured that the penalty imposed on you cannot be increased during the appeal proceedings.

Disputes are handled directly by the Administration, without any trial. The appeal is lodged with the authority that initially imposed the penalty (application for review) and, if it is rejected, you may take your dispute to the next echelon of that authority (appeal to a higher authority).

The procedure to follow will be explained to you directly on the statement given to you.

You must first exhaust these avenues of appeal before you can approach the administrative court.

How are other petty offences handled?

Other offences handled under administrative law are more serious, relating to regulation of the financial markets, the law on competition or tax or immigration regulations.

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

Offences handled under administrative law in France, especially as regards breaches of the traffic regulations, will not be entered in your criminal record.

Last update: 30/01/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Italy

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected of or accused of a crime.

Summary of the criminal process

The following is a summary of the stages in the normal criminal process against adults.

Details about all of these stages in the process and about your rights can be found in the factsheets. This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is only intended to be for guidance.

The process starts when the police or the Public Prosecutor comes to know about a fact that might be considered an offence or a crime.

Once the investigation has ended, the Public Prosecutor starts prosecution in order to set off the criminal process unless he thinks the case can be dismissed.

For those crimes which have to be dealt by the Collegiate Court, the Court of “Assise” [similar to Crown Courts in UK; Federal Judicial District in USA], and in some cases by the Single Judge Court, the Public Prosecutor submits a request for trial to the Judge for the preliminary hearing.

Once the preliminary hearing is over the judge can either commit the defendant for trial or abandon prosecution.

For those crimes which fall under the competence of the Single Judge Court or the Justice of the Peace, the Public Prosecutor will serve a summons for trial or a direct summons for trial.

Then there are some special processes: the summary trial, the sanction requested by the parties (plea bargaining), the immediate or summary judgment, the procedure by criminal decree of conviction.

A criminal proceeding usually takes place in three stages: the first instance (Court of “Assise”, Collegiate Court, Single Judge Court, and Justice of the Peace), Appeal, and Court of Cassation [Highest Court].

At first instance all evidence - witnesses and documents - is obtained, and it ends with either conviction or acquittal.

You can appeal against the first instance sentence.

The Court of Appeals takes its decision by either confirming the first instance sentence, or by reversing it partially or totally, or it may quash it by sending it back to the first judge.

You challenge the decision of the Court of Appeals by petitioning the Court of Cassation [the Highest Court].

The Court of Cassation pronounces the judgment by which it states that either the petition is not admissible or rejects it, or even quashes the sentence without sending it back, or finally, it may quash the sentence and send it to the trial judge.

Once all the stages of judgment are over, the sentence is final. If there is a conviction with a sentence, the sentence becomes enforceable at this point.

Details about all of these stages in the process and about your rights can be found in the factsheets. This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only.

For information on minor offences like road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in the Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. Information is provided in these Factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 - Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • Looking for evidence
  • Questioning
  • Arrest, detention, preventive custody and European Arrest Warrant
  • End of the preliminary investigation and pre-trial hearing.

Link opens in new window3 - My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 - My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 - Road traffic offences and other minor offences

Related links

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice

Link opens in new windowGeneral law issues

Link opens in new windowPenal law issues

Link opens in new windowItalian Chambers of Criminal Lawyers

Link opens in new windowHuman Rights

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

1 - Getting legal advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The factsheets tell you in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer can do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of a lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.

Finding a lawyer

If you are under arrest or detained or in custody, you may appoint a private counsel of your own immediately, and meet him right after arrest, detention or custody.

If you are on bail you can appoint a private counsel and talk to him at any time.

You may find a lawyer at the following links:

Link opens in new windowNational Bar

Multilingual Criminal Law

Link opens in new windowItalian Chambers of Criminal Lawyers

If you are not appointing a counsel, the Judicial Authority will appoint one for you from a special register.

Paying for a lawyer

Generally you are supposed to pay the lawyer who is assisting you, whether you have chosen him yourself or whether he was appointed to you by the Court.

Can I get the services of a lawyer free of charge?

You can apply for legal aid in order to get legal assistance paid by the government if your taxable income doesn’t exceed € 10,628.16. Should you live with a spouse or other relatives, the taxable income will be calculated by adding up all the incomes of each one of the family members. In such a case, the income limit is raised by a further € 1,032.91 and calculated for each one of the members of the family living with the interested party.

Are there circumstances where legal aid is excluded?

Legal aid is excluded:

  • in criminal proceedings related to tax evasion;
  • if the applicant is assisted by more than one counsel;
  • for those having a final conviction for those crimes related with mafia association, and related to tobacco smuggling and drug trafficking.

What can I do in to get Legal Aid?

You must apply to the office of the magistrate where the case is pending.

You must fill out and sign the application and you must supply the following information:

  • request for the granting of legal aid;
  • your name, surname, place, date of birth and tax code also of all the members of your family;
  • certification of your income for the year prior to your application (written statements);
  • your commitment to communicate any relevant changes in your income in order to be granted benefits.

You can either submit your application personally, attaching a photocopy of valid I.D. card, or you may submit it through your counsel who will have to legalize your signature. You can also send it by means of a certified letter with a return receipt, attaching a photocopy of your I.D. card.

If you have been detained you can submit your application from prison.

If you are under house arrest or custody, you can submit your application to an officer of the criminal police.

If you are a foreigner/alien coming from outside the EU, you must attach certification to your application from the competent consular authority about your income abroad and declaring the truth of what you have declared in your application.

If this is not possible such certification may be substituted by self-certification. If you are a foreigner and are detained and in prison for security reasons, or if you are under arrest or house arrest the certification from your Consulate may be submitted within twenty days from the submission of your application either by your counsel, a relative of yours or it can also be substituted by written statement.

What happens if I am granted legal aid?

Should the judge grant your request you may choose a private counsel from among the lawyers listed in special registers kept by the Bars. You can check these registers at the office of each Bar.

Expenses related to legal aid and all expenses related to the proceedings, including the services of an interpreter will paid by the government.

Related links

Link opens in new windowVolunteer Solicitors

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Interior

Link opens in new windowItalian Chambers of Criminal Lawyers

Link opens in new windowBar of Triveneto

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

What is an investigation?

An investigation is a series of activities carried out by the Public Prosecutor and by the Criminal Police right after a notice of offence. The notice of offence is obtained directly either by the Public Prosecutor, by the Criminal Police, or else, through an action entered by the claimant or by other individuals.

What is the purpose of a criminal investigation?

The purpose of the preliminary investigations is to ascertain whether a crime/offence was actually committed, to find the person responsible and to gather evidence to proceed with the investigation and the proceedings.

Who carries out investigations?

The Public Prosecutor, the Criminal Police and the defendant’s counsel carry out the investigation. Then there is the Judge for the Preliminary Investigations who guarantees respect for the procedural regulations and of the rights of the parties.

What are the main stages of a preliminary investigation?

Looking for evidence

The Public Prosecutor and the Criminal Police may arrange and carry out searches, controls, seizure of things and documents, examination of witnesses, telephone tapping, electronic surveillance and inspection of premises. The purpose of these steps is to look for and obtain evidence. The defendant’s counsel may carry out searches in order to look for evidence in his favor.

Interrogation

A suspected person may be called by the criminal police or by the Public Prosecutor to be questioned. The purpose of interrogation is to find out whether the individual is involved in a crime/offence.

Arrest, detention, preventive custody in prison and European arrest warrant

Police may arrest an individual if caught in the act of committing the crime/offence, or arrest him after the crime has been committed, if there is a risk that he might escape. The purpose of arrest is to avoid more crimes being committed and to take the individual into custody. The purpose of the arrest is to ensure that the suspect does not escape.

The Judge for the preliminary investigations may decide that the suspect should be kept in custody in prison. The purpose of this is to avoid more crimes being committed, to allow the necessary evidence to be procured and to avoid the suspected person escaping.

Lastly, the police may arrest an individual to enforce a European Arrest Warrant. The purpose of such Warrant is to take the individual into the custody of the requesting State.

Closing of preliminary investigations and preliminary hearing

Once the preliminary investigations are over the Public Prosecutor starts prosecution unless he has asked for the dismissal of the case.

For the most serious crimes a preliminary hearing takes place before the Judge before the trial starts. The function of this hearing is to act as a filter in order to assess the grounds for the accusation and to avoid useless trials. The defendant may choose to be judged by an alternative process avoiding trial and, in case of conviction from a reduction of his prison sentence.

My rights during investigation

Click on the following links to know what your rights are during each stage of investigation.

Looking for evidence (1)

Can the police carry out inspections and search my home, my car or my business premises?

Yes. The Police may carry out inspections and local searches either on their own initiative or at the request of the Public Prosecutor in order to look for and hand over the evidence of the crime/offence committed.

Can they do a body search?

Yes. There must be a warrant from the Public Prosecutor for a body search. However the police may stop and frisk a person on their own initiative.

Can the police take documents and objects that I am holding or which are in my home, car or business premises?

Yes. The police may seize documents and things which may be considered as material evidence and which are necessary for proving a fact, either on their own initiative, or with a warrant from the Public Prosecutor.

What are my rights in case of inspection, search and seizure?

If you are subjected to a body search or frisk you can be assisted by a trustworthy person as long as they are immediately available. A body search must be conducted respecting your dignity.

In the case of inspection or seizure with a warrant, the police must hand you a copy of such warrant. If you are not present at that moment the police must hand it to anyone present on site at the time. You have the right to be assisted by a lawyer but the police do not have to call the lawyer in advance.

Do I have the right to petition against seizure?

Yes, you can present a request for review within ten days of the seizure/impoundment order. The decision will be taken by the competent court.

Will I be asked for fingerprints or samples of my DNA (hair, saliva, body fluids)?

Yes. If you are suspected of a crime, the police may ask for DNA samples and fingerprints in order to identify you. If you don’t give your consent, the police can go ahead, by asking the Public Prosecutor simply for verbal authorization to take the fingerprints or samples.

You can be asked for fingerprints and DNA samples as evidence, but only if you are suspected of serious crimes and an order from the Judge is necessary or, in urgent cases, a warrant from the Public Prosecutor and then a ratification from the judge.

Can I ask to carry out investigations for my defence?

Your counsel has the right to carry out investigations on your account for your defence even through the use of a private detective.

He can also take down any statements from witnesses, inspect sites, authorize experts and ask for documents from the Civil Service.

Declarations from witnesses and documents can be taken by your counsel to the Judge for the preliminary investigations, to the Public Prosecutor and to the “Tribunale del Riesame” [a special court whose task is reviewing, at the request of the defendant, orders which impose coercive measures such as: home arrest or deportation].

They will be taken into account when the court makes its decision.

Questioning (2)

Why might I undergo interrogation?

If you are suspected of being involved a crime you might be called to be questioned in order to verify the allegations/accusations.

You can also ask to be interrogated in order to clarify your position.

If you are under arrest or custody, click here.

Will I get information on the charges before interrogation?

Yes. Descriptions of the facts regarding your accusation are contained in the summons for the interrogation. Before starting interrogation you will be told what you are accused of and the evidence against you.

Do I have to answer to the questions?

No. Before starting interrogation, the police and the Public Prosecutor must warn you that you are not obliged to answer the questions. Nevertheless, you have to answer the questions related to your personal details and previous convictions.

What happens if I don’t understand the local language?

You have the right to be assisted for free by an interpreter. The interpreter translates the questions and your answers.

Can I get a lawyer?

When you are called for the interrogation you will be told that you have the right to be assisted by a lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, the court will appoint one for you. For information on how to get the services of a lawyer, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1.

During the whole time you are being interrogated, you must be assisted by a lawyer whether a personal one or appointed by the court.

Immediately after the crime has been committed the police might ask you some questions even if your counsel is not present but you are not obliged to answer their questions. If you answer, your statements can be used as evidence in order to continue investigations.

Arrest, detention, preventive custody in prison and the European Arrest Warrant (3)

Why can I be arrested?

The police may arrest you if you are caught in the act of committing a crime, that is while you are actually committing a crime or if they chased you, immediately afterwards.

The police may also detain you for being caught in the act of committing a crime, when you are suspected of having committed a crime and if there is a real risk that you might escape.

A judge in the preliminary investigations may order that you should be kept in custody in prison if there is serious evidence that you might be guilty of a crime and there is a risk that you might somehow interfere with or obstruct the course of justice or that you might commit other crimes or that you are about to escape.

Will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

Yes. Right after arrest, detention or after an order of custody has been notified in prison, the police must inform you that you can appoint a lawyer. The police have to call your lawyer immediately or, if you do not have one, the lawyer who has been appointed by the court. For information on how to get the services of a lawyer, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1.

You have the right to talk with your lawyer immediately.

Should there be exceptional reasons for being held in custody, the judicial authorities might postpone your discussions with your counsel for a period not exceeding 48 hours in the case of arrest or detention, and of 5 days in the case of custody.

Can I contact a family member?

Yes. The police will contact your relatives if you give them authorization to do so.

Will I be questioned? Should I provide information?

If you are arrested or detained, the police may question you with your lawyer present but you are not forced to answer their questions.

You will be told what the accusations and evidence against you are.

In the detention hearing you can be interrogated by the Judge but you are not obliged to answer. You can also ask to be interrogated.

In the case of custody in prison the Judge must interrogate you within 5 days of the beginning of such custody (so called custodial interrogation). The presence of your counsel and of an interpreter is compulsory and you are not obliged to answer.

For further information see Questioning (2).

What happens if I don’t understand the language?

You have the right to be assisted for free by an interpreter. The interpreter translates the questions and your answers.

How long can I be held by the police?

After your arrest or detention you can be kept at the police headquarters for up to 24 hours. Within this period of time the police must put you in prison. A hearing to confirm the arrest or detention takes place before a Judge within 48 hours from the arrest. Once the hearing is over, the Judge may either order you to be released immediately or decide on a personal custody measure.

Can I appeal against an order that forces me to be in custody?

Yes. Within 10 days from the execution of the order, you can ask the competent Collegiate Court to review the order. A hearing will be arranged where you have the right to attend and you can ask to be heard. You can appeal to the Court of Cassation against the decision of the Court within 10 days of the decision being made.

What happens if I am arrested under a European Arrest Warrant?

If one Member State has ordered a European Arrest Warrant you can be arrested inside another Member State and handed over to the requesting State after a hearing before the Court of Appeal.

You can be arrested by the police on their own initiative or after an order for custody issued by the Court of Appeal.

You have the right to appoint a lawyer. If you do not have one, a lawyer will be appointed for you by the court. Your counsel and your Embassy must be called immediately.

Within 48 hours from being arrested by the police or within 5 days from the execution of the custody order, a Judge will hear you with your counsel being present and with an interpreter.

A hearing before the Court of Appeal will take place within 20 days of your arrest. At that hearing, a decision will be taken on whether you should be handed over or not. You can appeal against such a decision before the Court of Cassation.

End of the preliminary investigation and preliminary hearing (4)

What happens once the preliminary investigations are over?

Unless the Public Prosecutor asks for the dismissal of the case, he will notify you that the preliminary investigation has come to an end. You will not be notified if the crime comes under the jurisdiction of the Justice of the Peace.

You can consult the records of the preliminary investigation and know about the transcripts of the evidence against you. You can file briefs and evidence for your defence; and ask to be interrogated again.

After the notification that the preliminary investigation has come to an end, unless the Public Prosecutor asks for the dismissal of the case, he will start the prosecution. For minor offences, the Public Prosecutor will summon you directly for trial. In other cases he makes a request for trial to the Judge for the preliminary investigation.

What is a preliminary hearing?

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to verify the charges against you.

It is carried out in private with the Public Prosecutor and your counsel and, if you want to do so, you can participate and be heard. The Judge may listen to the witnesses and procure documents. At the end of the hearing, the Judge may either dismiss the case, or commit it for trial before the Court or the Court of “Assise”.

Do I have the right to have a lawyer?

Yes, it is compulsory that you are assisted by a lawyer.

For more information, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1.

What happens if I don’t understand the language?

The request that you should be committed for trial and the charges, have to be translated into your language. If you are present at the hearing, you will be provided with an interpreter.

Do I have to be present?

No. You can choose not to be present.

Can I avoid going to trial?

Yes. You can ask the judge at the preliminary hearing to be judged by means of a summary trial. The hearings take place in private and the decision is taken on the basis of the written evidence. Should you be convicted, the penalty will be reduced by a third.

You may also avoid going to trial by agreeing a reduced penalty with the Public Prosecutor (plea-bargaining).

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

3 - My rights during the trial

Where will the trial be held?

The trial will be held before the competent judge for the jurisdiction as well as for the subject matter.

For minor offences the competent judge is the Justice of the Peace and the Single Judge Court. For more serious crimes the Collegiate Court will deal with the matter. For those crimes considered of serious social threat (murder and terrorism), the competent court is the Court of “Assise”.

The trial must be held in public. If not, it is held to be invalid

The judge may decide that the trial or some of the parts of it, should be held in private for particular cases. You may ask that a witness be heard in private if a public hearing would prejudice your privacy on facts unrelated to the proceedings.

The judicial decision will be taken by the same judge who holds the trial. For trials at the Court of “Assise” the judicial decision will be taken along with a jury.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

The charges against you can be changed during the trial.

The Public Prosecutor may find new charges against you if the crime turns out to be different from the one described in the indictment, or if a simultaneous crime/offence or an aggravating circumstance arises.

You can ask for a period of time to prepare your defence.

What happens if I plead guilty?

Pleading guilty is not expected in the Italian legal system.

If you don’t want to go through the trial and want to have a reduced penalty you must ask the Public Prosecutor for an agreement on the penalty (plea bargain). You must make your request at the preliminary hearing or, if there is no preliminary hearing, right at the beginning of the trial.

What are my rights during trial?

You don’t need to be present in court.

Your presence might be required for some particular acts, for example: to be identified by a witness.

In such case, if you do not appear of your own accord, the judge may order your compulsory attendance at the trial.

If you want to be present but you have a serious impediment (sickness) your counsel may ask that the hearing be postponed.

You may also participate in only some of the hearings. If you fail to attend even one appearance the court will enter a judgment in default of appearance.

If you do not understand the language it is compulsory that you have an interpreter.

Being assisted by a lawyer is compulsory and he must be present at trial.

You have the right to a personal counsel. If you don’t have the means to pay him you can apply for legal aid (defence paid for by the government).

If you don’t appoint a personal lawyer the court will appoint one for you.

For more information, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 1. You can revoke your counsel at any time. To change the counsel appointed to you by the court you need to get an order from the judge supplying the reasons for it.

You have the right to remain silent for the whole trial.

If either the Public Prosecutor or any of the parties request that you be questioned you can either agree or refuse.

You are allowed to make statements at any time during the trial.

You have the right to be questioned.

If you are not telling the truth you will not be sanctioned, yet the judge may take this matter into account against you.

If you blame or accuse other people you must be sure that your statements are true. If you lie you can be accused of slander.

What are my rights in relation to the evidence against me?

Right at the beginning of trial the Public Prosecutor, your counsel and any other party will ask the judge for the admission of evidence.

Your counsel can reject the evidence requested by the other parties.

Your counsel may ask to have witnesses and experts heard and ask for documents to be obtained. This is evidence that your counsel may have obtained through investigations for your defence. For more information, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 2. Witnesses and experts are heard during the cross-examination of the parties

Your counsel may ask questions both to the prosecution witnesses as well as to your witnesses.

Your counsel may rebut any declarations previously made by the witnesses. Differences between statements made previously and in court will be taken into account by the judge in order to establish whether the witness is reliable or not.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

The Judge may take into account any previous convictions you may have.

You may be accused of being a habitual offender. In this case, if you are convicted, the penalty will be raised.

Previous convictions in other Member States may be taken into account if they are recognised by the Italian government.

What happens at the end of the trial?

Once the trial is over the Public Prosecutor, your counsel and any other parties make their final statements and present their requests.

The judge presents his verdict and immediately reads the charges.

The sentence can be either acquittal or conviction.

In case of conviction the penalty might be either a fine or a prison sentence or both.

The judge may grant a suspended sentence.

A sentence of imprisonment with no suspended sentence becomes enforceable only when the sentence is final.

If the judge thinks that it is necessary, he can agree to or request precautionary custody in prison or house arrest. For further information, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 2.

In trials before the Justice of the Peace, the possible penalties are: fines, home confinement and community service.

A suspended sentence is not applicable.

The Justice of the Peace may substitute deportation for the penalty.

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

The victim of an offence/crime may participate in criminal proceedings with the assistance of a lawyer.

The counsel takes part in the trial, may ask for evidence, and interrogate witnesses and experts.

If you are convicted the judge may sentence you to pay damages to the aggrieved party.

The Judge may decide that the payment of damages to the aggrieved party be made immediately.

Related links

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice

Link opens in new windowGeneral law issues

Link opens in new windowPenal law issues

Link opens in new windowItalian Chambers of Criminal Lawyers

Link opens in new windowHuman Rights

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 - My rights after the trial

Can I appeal?

You and your counsel may appeal against the sentence for any penalty that is not a fine.

The appeal must be filed with the judge who convicted you within a variable period of time: from 15 to 45 days from the verdict or recording of the judgment.

You must specify in your appeal the reasons for your appeal and issues of the sentence you are appealing against.

The trial will take place before the Court of Appeal or the “Corte d’Assise d’Appello”.

What happens if I appeal?

If you appeal against the sentence the penalty will not be executed until the decision is final.

The fact that you have appealed will not mean that you are released from prison, if you are in prison when you appeal. The Court of Appeal will hear your appeal within a short time if you are in custody. In any other case it will depend on the amount of work the Court has.

The Court of Appeal decides on the existing evidence.

The Court may decide on a new trial but only in exceptional cases. It may decide to avail itself of the existing evidence only if it considers it vital for the decision. You can ask for unexpected or newly discovered evidence, which came to light after the first instance judgment to be considered during the appeal.

If you haven’t attended the first degree stage of the trial and you can prove that it was impossible for you to do so, or because you were not aware that the trial was taking place, the Court may decide to restart the trial.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

Your lawyer must be present at the trial. You can participate but it is not mandatory.

You have the right to have an interpreter.

If the Court decides to restart the trial it will reconsider all the evidence.

Once the closing statements of the parties are over, the Court will present its verdict.

What happens if the appeal is successful/unsuccessful?

If the Court admits the appeal it may quash or modify the sentence either totally or partially.

If the Court doesn’t admit the appeal it will confirm the sentence of the court which first heard the case.

If you are acquitted of the charges at the appeal stage, generally there is no provision for you to receive compensation.

Can I appeal against the sentence of the Court of Appeal?

You can appeal against the decision on appeal to the Court of Cassation.

The appeal may be submitted by yourself or by your counsel as long as he is registered in the “Albo dei patrocinanti in Cassazione” [a special Register of advocacy in the Court of Cassation]

The appeal has to be presented to the Court of Appeal within a variable period of time: from 15 to 45 days.

Cases for appeal are strict and only deal with legal errors.

The hearings may be in private or in public.

The Court of Cassation decides on the basis of the court records.

The Court of Cassation may not admit the appeal or reject it, or else quash the appealed sentence with or without committal to trial. If there is to be a retrial, the case will be sent back to the original judge.

What happens after the sentence is final?

The sentence becomes final, unless you appeal to the Court of Appeal or the Court of Cassation within the terms provided by law, or after the decision by which the Court of Cassation rejected the appeal.

When the sentence is final it becomes enforceable.

It is registered at the Criminal Records Office.

If the penalty is the payment of a fine you will have to pay the amount requested by the Office.

If you were given a prison sentence, which is not suspended, the Public Prosecutor presents an enforceable order.

If you have to serve three years or less in prison, the Public Prosecutor may suspend the sentence and notify you of his decision.

You may apply within 30 days for a different measure rather than imprisonment to the “Tribunale di Sorveglianza” [a sort of Parole Board]. If there are existing preconditions, you may ask to be submitted either to the supervision of a social worker, to be placed under house arrest or under the supervision of a rehabilitation and prevention centre.

If you don’t submit your request or if your application is rejected you must start serving the sentence.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back after the trial?

The judge may apply the security measure of deportation if you have been sentenced to more than two years of imprisonment.

The judge may replace the prison sentence with deportation with a re-entry prohibition, if you have been convicted or plea-bargained for a two year prison sentence and there are no provisions allowing a suspended sentence. Deportation will be immediate even if the sentence is not final. The competent authority is the “Questore” [provincial chief of the state-run police].

You may also be deported if you are already in prison and have to serve a sentence of less than two years. The order is presented by the Magistrate of the “Tribunale di Sorveglianza”. You may appeal the decision before the “Tribunale di Sorveglianza”.

Will information about the charges and/or the conviction be added to my criminal records?

Final sentences are registered in the criminal records.

Records are removed as soon as you are over 80 years old or after death.
They are removed also if the case is reviewed.

Sentences imposed by the Justice of the Peace will be removed five years after the date the sanction was issued, if a fine was imposed, or after ten years for a different penalty, and if no further crime/offence has been committed within the established period of time.

You may ask the competent Court to have records and certificates from the Criminal Records Office corrected. If you were born abroad, the competent court is the Court in Rome.

If I am convicted, can I be tried again for the same crime?

If you were convicted by an Italian Judge, the conviction is final, and you cannot be tried again in Italy for the same crime.

If you were convicted by a foreign Judge and it is a crime/offence committed in Italy then you can be tried again in Italy.

Related links

Link opens in new windowGeneral law issues

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Interior

General issues for non nationals

Link opens in new windowPenal law issues

State Police

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Road traffic offences

How are minor road traffic offences dealt with?

There are two categories of breaches of the law provided for by the Highway Code/Rules of the Road: offences and administrative breaches.

For offences like drunken driving the assessment and the imposing of the penalty follows the same rules as a criminal case.

For minor offences (like speeding, or parking offences) there is an administrative procedure which will be explained in this factsheet.

Who deals with such offences?

The Road Patrol, the State Police, the “Carabinieri”, the “Guardia di Finanza” [Fiscal Police] and the “Polizia Municipale” [Municipal Police] deal with road traffic offences. In certain cases, the “ausiliari del traffico” [road traffic volunteers] may also fine you.

What is the procedure?

If it is possible, the Charge Sheet is immediately drafted and handed to you personally.

If not, the report will be sent to you within 150 days from the identification of the offender or the individual who is responsible for the payment of the fine (usually the owner).

What are the penalties?

You are usually expected to pay a fine.

There can also be other administrative sanctions, for example, you may be disqualified from driving or banned from driving for a certain period of time.

I come from another Member State. Are there any particular rules?

If you are driving a car with foreign plates you can pay a reduced fine immediately (minimum sanction) if allowed. In such cases you cannot appeal.

Another possibility is that you may pay a “cauzione” [a deposit] equal to the amount of the minimum sanction if the vehicle was registered in one of the EU Member States, or equal to half the amount of the maximum sanction in any other case. You can appeal even if you have paid the “cauzione”.

Your vehicle will be provisionally seized if you don’t pay the “cauzione” . If that happens, you need to pay for the impounding of the vehicle and are not allowed to use it until you have paid one of the sums above.

If the vehicle is not seized, the notification of the report to people living abroad is made within 360 days of the report being written.

What is a “verbale” [traffic police report]?

A “verbale” is a public report where facts are reported and penalties are established.

This is positive evidence of the facts reported by the police officer.

You can refuse to sign it or to collect it. Your refusal has to be reported but doesn’t change the validity of the report.

Can I appeal?

The person whose name is on the report may appeal, whether they are the offender or the owner of the vehicle.

You can appeal to the Prefect or to the Justice of the Peace.

The appeal to the Prefect has to be presented personally or by means of a certified letter with a return receipt within 60 days to the Prefect’s office in the place where the offence took place or to the assessing authority.

The appeal to the Justice of the Peace has to be presented personally or by means of a certified letter with delivery receipt by return, within 60 days from notification of the act to the office of the Justice of the Peace in the place where the offence took place. You will have to be present at court either personally or through your counsel or else the proceedings will be void.

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

As these are administrative offences, they do not appear on your criminal record.

Last update: 25/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Cyprus

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected or accused of a crime which is dealt with by a trial in court. For information on minor road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Summary of the criminal process

The following is a summary of the normal stages in the criminal process

  • A person suspected of involvement in a crime may be questioned by the police. The police are responsible for the investigation of crime.
  • The suspect may be arrested on the strength of a judicial warrant except in the case of a flagrant offence.
  • Before police questioning the suspect must be informed of the right to communicate with a lawyer and must be cautioned.
  • At the conclusion of the investigation if incriminating evidence emerges against the suspect he/she is formally charged by the police. In serious criminal cases the decision to prosecute is taken by the Attorney-General.  This power of the police is always under the overall instructions of the Attorney–General who has the power under the Constitution to institute, conduct, take over and continue or discontinue any criminal proceedings.
  • A charge-sheet setting out the offence(s) is submitted by the police to a district judge for approval. If approved, the accused is summoned to appear before the court on a specified date.
  • Criminal cases depending on their gravity can be tried: (a) summarily by a single judge of the district court where the offence was committed, (b) on information by the Assize Court composed of three district court judges and presided over by a president of a district court.
  • In summary proceedings, on the date the accused is summoned to appear before the court he/she answers to the charge(s) by pleading guilty or not guilty. In cases which are tried by the Assize Court on the appointed date a preliminary inquiry is held before a district court judge. A preliminary inquiry may be dispensed with if the Attorney-General certifies that it is unnecessary. The practise nowadays is to dispense with the holding of a preliminary enquiry.
  • The victim of a crime has the right to hold a private prosecution.
  • The Attorney-General has overall responsibility for criminal prosecutions including the right to discontinue a prosecution.
  • There is no trial by jury in Cyprus.
  • If the court on enquiry determines that the accused is unfit to plead because of mental disturbance or incapacity the court may make an order for his/her treatment at a mental institution.
  • The accused may raise preliminary objections to the charges for: (a) lack of jurisdiction, substantial or territorial, (b) previous acquittal or conviction for the same act(s), (c) pardoning of the offence(s), (d) incompleteness or duplicity of charges.
  • More than one person may be charged in the same indictment for related criminal conduct. If this is considered unfair the court may order that the charges should be divided for the purposes of the trial.
  • The trial commences with the prosecution evidence.  At the close of the prosecution case the court determines whether the accused has a case to answer. If so the accused is called by the Court to make a defence and is informed of his/her right to remain silent or make a statement from the dock or give evidence under oath. The accused may at all times call evidence in his/her defence. No adverse inferences can be drawn from the exercise of the right to silence. Once the defence case is closed the parties make their final submissions and the court delivers its judgement.
  • All witnesses who give sworn evidence in court may be cross-examined.
  • The trial process must adhere to the norms of a fair trial. The presumption of innocence operates throughout the trial. The burden of proof is at all times on the prosecution. If at the end of the trial the court is not certain beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused he/she must be acquitted.
  • If the accused is convicted, the sentencing process follows.

Details about all these stages in the process and about your rights can be found in the factsheets. This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 - Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • Arrest and search

Link opens in new window3 - My rights during the trial

  • Modes of punishment

Link opens in new window4 - My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 - Road traffic offences

subpage:169:5

Related links

Link opens in new windowThe Law Office of the Republic of Cyprus

Link opens in new windowThe Supreme Court of Cyprus

Link opens in new windowThe Cyprus Police

Last update: 29/08/2014

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

1 - Getting legal advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.

Finding a lawyer

If you are suspected of involvement in a crime you have the right to consult a lawyer. If you are charged with a criminal offence you have the right to be represented by a lawyer in court proceedings. At all times you have a right to have the services of a lawyer of your choice.

Communications between lawyer and client are privileged. They are held in private and cannot be disclosed except with your consent.

Paying for a lawyer

If the crime you are charged with carries a sentence of more than a year you have the right to legal aid which is available for all stages of criminal litigation.

If you are a legal aid applicant the court will decide whether the grant of legal aid is justified, acting on the basis of a socio economic report prepared by the welfare office at the direction of the court.

If you are entitled to legal aid you have the right to choose a lawyer from a list prepared by the Link opens in new windowCyprus Bar Association. You may find relevant information about the list of lawyers at the registry of the court where proceedings against you were instituted. If you do not choose a lawyer from the list, the court may appoint a lawyer for you.

It is a criminal offence to make a false statement about your financial circumstances in order to obtain legal aid. If you commit such an offence you will be liable to refund the State the legal aid received and the court may issue an order to that effect.

If you have a complaint against a lawyer for breach of the rules of conduct, it may be submitted to the disciplinary board of the Link opens in new windowCyprus Bar Association.

Related links

Link opens in new windowLegal aid information from the  Ministry of Justice and Public Order

Link opens in new windowCyprus Bar Association

Last update: 29/08/2014

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

What is the purpose of a criminal investigation?

A criminal investigation is designed to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding a crime.

As a rule, the investigation is carried out by the police. In exceptional cases the Council of Ministers or the Attorney–General may authorize experts for the investigation. Decisions to prosecute are as a rule taken by the police under the overall instructions of the Attorney–General. In serious criminal cases the decision is taken by the Attorney–General.

An investigation begins when information reaches the police that a criminal offence(s) has been committed.

The police will examine the scene of the crime and collect relevant information and material. They will also examine and take statement(s) from any person who has information about the crime.

If the evidence suggests that you were involved in a crime, the police may question you before or after arrest.

When and how can I be asked for information by the police?

If the police believe that you have useful information concerning a crime they may demand your presence at a police station in order to give a statement or produce any relevant document. If you refuse to attend, they may serve you with a written notice. Failure to comply without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence.

Will I be cautioned?

If you are suspected of involvement in a crime you must be cautioned in the following terms before being questioned: “you are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so but whatever you say will be taken down in writing and may be given in evidence”. If you are a minor you must also be informed of your right to communicate with your parent or guardian.

You may be arrested on the strength of a judicial warrant and in certain circumstances without a warrant of arrest. See Link opens in new windowhere.

What information will I be given if I am arrested?

You must be informed of the reasons for your arrest unless a violent reaction from you makes this impossible.

What happens after an arrest?

You must be brought before a judge within 24 hours unless released earlier.

What happens if there is a European Arrest Warrant against me?

A European arrest warrant must follow the process and contain the information required by law. It must be issued by a judicial authority of the applicant state. For more information see here.

Will I be held in custody or released?

If the police consider that you should be detained, they must apply to a district court judge to remand you in custody for no more than eight days. This can be renewed provided that the total period of custody is not more than three months.

The court may remand you in custody if there is evidence suggesting that you were involved in the commission of the offence(s) in question.  The court will also consider whether custody is necessary for the investigation and balance this against your right to freedom.

Can I appeal against a decision to remand me in custody?

You can appeal against the decision. The appeal must be lodged within ten days.

What happens if I do not answer the police's questions?

No adverse inferences can be drawn from the exercise of the right to silence.

Police questioning must not be oppressive or repetitive.

Can I have a lawyer during questioning?

You have no right to a lawyer during your interrogation by the police. Once arrested you are entitled to communicate immediately over the phone with a lawyer of your choice in private.

I do not speak the language.  Can I have an interpreter?

The law provides that you must have the services of an interpreter in a language which you thoroughly understand and speak.

Can I tell a relative or friend what's happening to me?

You are entitled to communicate with a relative or a person of your choice. If you are a minor you are

also entitled to communicate with your parent or guardian in the presence of the police. Your parents or guardian will be informed by the police about your detention.

Your communication with friends and relatives may be delayed for twelve hours if there is reasonable suspicion that the exercise of this right immediately after arrest will:

  • lead to the destruction of evidence,
  • prevent the arrest of another person(s) in relation to the same crime or
  • lead to the escape of other suspect(s) or the commission of another offence.

I am from another Member State.  Can I contact my Embassy?

If you are from another country, you have the right to communicate with your Embassy or Consul. If no representative is available, then you have the right to communicate with the Link opens in new windowOffice of the Ombudsman or the Link opens in new windowNational Organisation for the Protection of Human Rights.

Can I see a doctor while I am detained?

If during arrest or detention you need medical care, the police must ensure that you are examined by a doctor and if necessary take you to hospital. You have the right to choose the doctor.

Do I have to be present in Cyprus during the investigation?

If you are resident abroad you are not legally obliged to be present during a police investigation.  The law does not yet provide for you to take part in the investigation by video link.

You may leave the country unless a warrant of arrest is issued against you.

Can my home or business premises be searched during the investigation?

Your house or premises may only be searched if a search warrant has been obtained, unless you consent to the search in writing.

Can there be a body search?

You may also be subjected to a body search by someone of the same sex. See Link opens in new windowhere.

Can the police take my fingerprints, samples of my DNA, etc?

If you are detained, the police are legally entitled to take measurements, photographs, fingerprints, palm prints, samples of your handwriting, nail, hair and saliva as part of the investigation.

Your failure to consent is a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment or a fine. The police may also take samples of your blood or urine if you consent. If not, a court order may be obtained authorising the police to take such samples under medical supervision.

Will I have to take part in an identification parade?

If you are lawfully detained the police are entitled to demand that you take part in an identification parade.

Can I complain about my treatment by the police?

A complaint against the police may be submitted to the Link opens in new windowIndependent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints against the Police

What happens at the end of the investigation?

You may be charged by the police if there is enough evidence at the end of the investigation to establish a criminal case against you. Before being charged you must again be cautioned. You may answer guilty or not guilty or reserve the right to answer in court.  The indictment will then be filed in court.

The charges in the indictment may differ from the original charges.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

If you are acquitted or convicted of an offence you cannot be tried again for it. You cannot be found guilty of an act or omission which was not a crime at the time when it was committed.

There is no rule against bringing criminal charges against you before the courts of two different states. But this is highly unusual and you may object to the proceedings in either of the courts.

What happens at the first court hearing?

Once you are summoned to appear before the court you have the right to be provided with the witnesses’ statements as well as with the documents collected during the police investigation including those forming part of the prosecution case.

The prosecution may call additional witnesses at the trial provided adequate notice is given to the defence.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

Evidence of your previous convictions will not normally be presented at the trial.

If you are convicted of the offence, any similar convictions will be considered in deciding the sentence (Link opens in new windowsee Factsheet 5).

Powers of arrest and search

Police power to arrest

The Link opens in new windowConstitution of Cyprus provides that a person cannot be lawfully arrested, except where a correctly reasoned warrant has been issued.  All provisions of the criminal procedure law authorising arrest without a judicial warrant must be read subject to this constitutional rule.

The police may apply to a judge of the district court for a warrant for arrest.  The police must submit an affidavit demonstrating that there is evidence to suggest that you are suspected of involvement in a crime and your arrest is necessary for the criminal investigation.

The issue of a warrant of arrest is not automatic. The judge has a discretion and must balance the right of a person to freedom, on the one hand, and public security on the other.

A warrant of arrest remains in force until executed or cancelled by a judge.

Police power to search

A search warrant must be obtained for the search of your home, or your business premises unless you expressly consent in writing to the search. A search warrant must give reasons. It is issued by a district court judge based on information provided by the police under oath. The judge must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the search warrant to be issued.

A police officer has the right to stop and search your vehicle:-

  • if the officer reasonably believes that narcotic drugs may be found,
  • to check whether any explosive substance or illegal weapon is in the vehicle.

A search of your body must be carried out by a member of the police force of the same sex.

A police officer who reasonably suspects that you are in possession of narcotic drugs has the right to stop and search you and if drugs are found, to arrest you.

You have no right of appeal against the issuing of an arrest or a search warrant.

Related links

Link opens in new windowLaw Office of the Republic

Link opens in new windowSupreme Court of Cyprus

Last update: 29/08/2014

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

3 - My rights during the trial

Where will the trial be held?

The case will be heard by the court of the district where the offence was committed.

Your trial will be held in public unless the court directs that it should be in private.  The Link opens in new windowConstitution sets out reasons for holding the trial in private.

In Cyprus there is no trial by jury. The court, composed of professional judges, is the judge of law and fact.

Can charges be amended during the trial?

The charges may be amended during the trial if the court agrees. This may happen if the information in the charge is inadequate or to streamline the charges with the evidence.

New charges can be added during the trial if they emerge from the evidence, and the court agrees. If this happens the proceedings may be adjourned to allow you to prepare your defence.

If at the end of the trial only part of a charge is proved and it is a stand-alone offence you may be convicted of that offence without amendment of the charge. Likewise you may be convicted of an attempt to commit the offence with which you are charged without amendment of the charge.  At the end of proceedings the court may order that additional charges should be added arising from the evidence, and may convict you without amending the indictment.  This must not lead to a miscarriage of justice.

You may change your plea during the trial in relation to all or any of the charges, if the court agrees to allow you to do so.   If you plead guilty to some of the charges the court will hear the case in relation to the remaining charges. If you plead guilty to all the charges the court will move directly to the sentencing process.

What are my rights during the trial?

You are entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent, impartial and competent court established by law.

The judgement of the court must be reasoned and is generally given in public, unless publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

If you are charged with a criminal offence you have the following minimum constitutional rights:-

  • to be informed promptly and in a language you understand and in detail of the nature and grounds of the charges against you;
  • to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of your defence;
  • to defend yourself in person or through a lawyer of your own choice or, if you cannot pay for legal assistance, to be given free legal assistance if that is in the interests of justice ;
  • to ask questions of witnesses against you and to have the same conditions apply to witnesses on your behalf as to those against you.
  • to have the free legal assistance of an interpreter if you cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

Must I attend the trial?

Once you have been served with a summons requiring you to appear in court, you must attend.  If you do not attend, an arrest warrant will be issued against you.

Will I be held in custody, or released during the trial?

As a rule you will be given bail during the trial except in serious cases.  Detention may be ordered if there is a serious risk that you will not appear at the trial if you are released.   Bail may also be refused if there is a risk that you will commit further offences if you are released.

If bail is refused and the case is tried before a district court, you cannot be detained for more than eight days until your next appearance in court. There is no limit on the period of detention if the case is tried before the Assize Court.

You have the right to appeal against a decision refusing bail. The appeal must be lodged within 10 days of the decision.

There is no fixed time limit for your detention pending the trial. However, you must be tried within a reasonable time.

I live in another Member State.  Can I participate in the trial by video link?

There is no provision for participation in criminal proceedings by video link.

Will I have a lawyer to represent me during the trial?

You do not have to be represented by a lawyer in court proceedings. You have the right to defend yourself in person. If you are represented by a lawyer you have the right to change your lawyer at any stage of the proceedings.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be entitled to legal aid if that is in the interests of justice.

If you are represented by a lawyer at the trial, he or she will present your defence. If you defend yourself in person you have the same rights including the right to silence and the right against self-incrimination.

What is my role in the trial?

After the prosecution has presented its case, you have the right to submit to the court that there is no case to answer for any of the following reasons:

  • there has been no evidence to prove an essential element of the offence,
  • the prosecution's evidence has been shown to be unreliable and insufficient for a safe conviction.

If the court agrees with your argument, you will be acquitted without being called to make your defence.

If the court decides that there is a case to answer it must inform you of the following rights:

  • to give evidence under oath.  If you do this, you will be cross-examined by the prosecution.
  • to make an unsworn statement from the dock.  In this case you will not be liable to cross-examination;
  • to remain silent. No adverse inferences may be drawn from the exercise of the right to silence.

Can I call witnesses in my defence?

Whether you choose to give evidence or not, you have the right to call witnesses in your defence.

If you choose to give evidence under oath and you are faced with an incriminating question you must be warned by the court of your right not to answer.

What happens if I lie in court?

If you make a false statement at the trial you commit the crime of perjury which is punishable with imprisonment.

What are my rights in relation to the charges against me?

You have the right to challenge prosecution evidence by cross-examining prosecution witnesses.  You can also object to evidence.

Can I present evidence to support my case?

You may produce any evidence in support of your defence that is relevant to the trial issues and admissible in law.  If you put your character in issue you may call a character witness in your defence.

Can I use a private detective to collect evidence on my behalf?

Yes you can. The evidence collected may be produced in court subject to the same rules as any other evidence.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

Your criminal record may not be disclosed during the trial unless you decide to give evidence and you put your character in issue by making an allegation against the character of a prosecution witness during cross-examination.

Evidence of your previous offences may be presented to the court, provided the crime that you are being tried for is similar to other crimes which you have committed.

Your previous convictions in another Member State may be taken into account except where the convictions have expired.

What happens at the end of the trial?

At the close of trial the parties make their final addresses and the court delivers its judgement.

You may be convicted or acquitted by the court.

If you are convicted, you have the right to address the court before it passes sentence, with a view to reducing your sentence.

For information about possible sentences, see Link opens in new windowhere.

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

The victim has no specific role in the trial, but may be called to give evidence about the events surrounding the offence and the injury, damage and loss suffered as a result.

In the sentencing process the victim may be asked by the prosecution to describe the consequences of the crime. If you agree to compensate the victim, or the victim is prepared to forgive the act, your sentence may be reduced.

Modes of punishment

The following is a list of the various sentences which can be imposed by a court in Cyprus.

  • Imprisonment i.e., incarceration in a state prison for a specified period of time.
  • Periodic imprisonment. If you are convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of three years or less, you may be sentenced to periodic imprisonment lasting no more than fifty two weeks. The period of weekly imprisonment lasts from Friday 8:00am to Monday 5:00pm.
  • Suspended sentence of imprisonment. If your sentence of imprisonment is two years or less it may be suspended for a period of three years subject to conditions.  If you breach the conditions, the original prison sentence will be applied and there may be other consequences.
  • Probation order. The court may make a probation order requiring you to be under the supervision of a probation officer for a period between one to three years. Special provision is made by law for the treatment of juvenile offenders.
  • Young offenders. The age of criminal liability is fourteen years. Imprisonment of persons between the ages of fourteen and eighteen is rare.
  • An order directing the removal of a minor from his/her family. If a parent or person who is responsible for a minor is convicted of certain crimes, the court can order that the child be taken to a place of safety.  The child then becomes the responsibility of the director of the social welfare department.
  • An order for the treatment of a drug addict. A person convicted of a drug offence, may be ordered to undergo treatment at a drug withdrawal centre, instead of imposing any other punishment, provided that the person consents.
  • Giving security to appear for judgement. In this case, conditions are imposed, requiring you to keep the law for a specified period of time. If the condition is breached you may be convicted both for breaking the order and the original offence.
  • The court may bind you over to keep the peace over a specified period of time.
  • Prohibition on attending sporting events. If you are convicted of an act(s) of violence at a football match or any other athletic contest the court may in addition to any other punishment, prohibit you from attending a football match or athletic contest.
  • Confiscation order relating to the proceeds of crime.
  • Disqualification from using a motor vehicle. In the case of a conviction relating to a traffic offence, you may be disqualified from using a motor vehicle. This is supplementary to any other punishment the court may impose.
  • Disqualification from holding or using a sporting gun. This may apply if you are convicted of the illegal use of the gun for the pursuit of game.
  • A forfeiture order.  You may be ordered to forfeit objects which you hold illegally, or which you have obtained illegally.
  • Demolition order. The court may order the demolition of a building which has been erected illegally.

Related links

Link opens in new windowGovernment web site referring to the Constitution

Last update: 29/08/2014

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 - My rights after the trial

Can I appeal?

You have an unqualified right to appeal to the Supreme Court against conviction and sentence. A conviction which resulted from a guilty plea by you cannot be appealed except where the facts set out in the charge are not in fact an offence.

What time limits apply?

Your appeal against conviction and/or sentence must be lodged within ten days from the date of sentence. A notice of appeal is filed with the registry of the district court in which the case was tried and with the registry of the Supreme Court if the case was tried by an Assize Court.

What are the grounds of appeal?

The grounds of appeal against conviction are that:

  • the normal rules of a fair trial have been breached,
  • the conviction is unreasonable, based on the evidence led
  • the decision of the court is wrong on a question of law,
  • a substantial miscarriage of justice has occurred.

The grounds of appeal against sentence are that:

  • the sentence is wrong in principle – that the trial court was misdirected on the facts or the law or both,
  • the sentence is manifestly excessive or manifestly inadequate.

The grounds of appeal against conviction and sentence must be fully explained and justified in the notice of appeal.

What happens if I appeal?

If you exercise your right to appeal, your conviction or sentence will remain valid until the appeal is decided.

Normally, an appeal is resolved within six to twelve months.

Evidence is not normally heard on appeal. New evidence can be heard if through no fault of your own, it has only come to light after the trial.  It must be significant to the trial and relevant to your innocence.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

The parties to the appeal have a right to address the court for and against the appeal.  An outline of the arguments is filed in writing before the hearing. The appeal is not a rehearing of the original case. The object is to review the soundness of the first instance decision.

What can the court decide?

The Supreme Court may:

  • allow the appeal and quash your conviction;
  • allow the appeal in part and confirm other parts of the conviction where you were found guilty on a number of counts;
  • dismiss the appeal;
  • set aside the conviction and convict you for another offence which is more appropriate, based on the evidence and apply a new sentence;
  • allow the appeal and send the case back for retrial before the same or another court.

What happens if the appeal is successful/unsuccessful?

If your appeal against conviction is successful the verdict is quashed and the punishment is set aside. If unsuccessful the appeal against conviction is dismissed. On appeal against sentence, the Supreme Court has the power to reduce, vary, modify or alter the sentence. If the appeal against conviction and/ or sentence is unsuccessful the Supreme Court has the power to direct that imprisonment should run from the day of dismissal of the appeal.

Is there a right to appeal to a higher/different court?

There is no third tier of justice. The remedies available to you are exhausted when the appeal is decided.  If any of your rights guaranteed by the Link opens in new windowEuropean Convention on Human Rights are violated, you may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights when no more local remedies are possible.

If the first decision is wrong, will I get any compensation?

If your appeal against conviction is successful and you have already spent time in prison, the law entitles you to seek compensation for loss suffered on account of your inability to work.

If my appeal is successful, will a record be held of the initial conviction?

If your conviction is quashed on appeal no record will be kept of the conviction.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back after trial?

If you are sentenced to a term of imprisonment in Cyprus you can be sent to your country to serve sentence provided the imprisonment is for more than six months; exceptionally this limitation may be lifted. You will be informed of this right when you are admitted to prison.

Transfer to your Member State is not automatic. You must express the wish to serve the sentence in your country by making an application either in the sentencing state (Cyprus) or to your Member State.

Exceptionally, if one of the states considers it necessary, because of your age or physical or mental condition, transfer can take place without your consent.

The conditions for transfer are prescribed by the Link opens in new windowConvention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons. One condition is that the act or omission for which you were convicted must be a crime under the law of the administering state.

Upon transfer to your Member State all matters relating to the conditions of detention are governed by the law of that state, and not the law of the state which issued the sentence.  You must consent to such transfer unless the exceptions noted above apply.

There is no right to appeal against a decision to transfer you to your home country to serve the sentence.

If I am convicted can I be tried again for the same offence?

You cannot be tried twice for the same offence whether committed in Cyprus or in another State. The principle against double jeopardy is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of Cyprus.

Will information about the charges be added to my criminal record?

A register of previous convictions is kept by the police. Every new conviction is added to your criminal record. The register of convictions is primarily kept and used for sentencing purposes. No record is kept of criminal charges which did not result in a conviction.

The length of time over which the criminal record of your conviction will be kept in the register of previous convictions depends upon the nature of the sentence and ranges from five to 12 years maximum.

Your criminal record can be kept by the police without your consent and you cannot object to the inclusion of your criminal conviction(s) in the registry.

Related links

Link opens in new windowConvention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons

Last update: 29/08/2014

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Road traffic offences

Minor as well as serious traffic offences are treated like any other offence. Fines are the normal punishment. Habitual offenders can be disqualified from driving. Most minor traffic offences are dealt with administratively.

Who deals with road traffic offences?

A number of minor motoring and related offences may be dealt with administratively by the imposition of a fine prescribed by law.

In the case of speeding or use of a mobile phone whilst driving and some other minor offences, penalty points are also added to your driving licence. When the penalty points exceed twelve, your case must be referred to court. If you do not agree to the imposition of a fine and penalty points, a criminal case will be filed against you in court.

A policeman or a municipal or local authority traffic warden may notify you that a fine has been imposed. In the case of a parking offence, the notice must state the offence and inform you that if you do not pay the fine within 15 days, it will increase by one half.

If the fine is not paid within 30 days, a prosecution may be mounted. Fines can be imposed for traffic offences committed by pedestrians and cyclists, as well as motorists. The level of the fine is set by law.

An administrative fine cannot be appealed if you consent to it. If on the other hand you deny committing the offence, the authorities may go to court in order to prove the offence. The court’s decision may be appealed, like any other decision for a criminal offence.

A fine which is imposed administratively may be collected like a fine imposed by a court of law. It does not give rise to a criminal record.

What happens if the case goes to court?

The district court of the area where the traffic offence is committed has jurisdiction to deal with it.

The procedure used at the trial of minor traffic offences is the same with any other offence.

The penalties that may be imposed by the court are:

  • fine,
  • imprisonment,
  • disqualification from driving a motor vehicle.

Citizens of other Member States are equally liable as nationals to be prosecuted for minor traffic offences.

A conviction as well as the sentence imposed for a minor traffic offence can be appealed in the same way and for the same reasons as any other case.

Related links

Link opens in new windowDriving in Cyprus – Cyprus Traffic Laws – Offences, Fines and Points

Last update: 29/08/2014

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница латвийски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Latvia

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected of or accused of a crime, which is dealt with by a trial in court. For information on minor offences like road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Summary of the criminal process

The following is a summary of the normal stages in the criminal process:

  • Investigation
  • Prosecution
  • Hearing of the case in the Court of First Instance
  • Review of the case in the Court of Appeal
  • Review of the case in the Supreme Court
  • Review of current court rulings

Details about all of these stages in the process and about your rights can be found in the factsheets.

This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint.  Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 – Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 – My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • Investigation
  • Prosecution
  • Certain procedural steps

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 – Road traffic offences

Related links

Link opens in new windowLaw on criminal proceedings

Link opens in new windowCriminal law

Link opens in new windowState Police authorities

Link opens in new windowPublic Prosecutor’s Office

Link opens in new windowBar Association of Latvia

Link opens in new windowLatvian Courts

Last update: 15/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница латвийски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

1 - Getting Legal Advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are in some way involved in a criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.

Finding a lawyer

Contact Link opens in new windowthe Latvian Bar Council if you need a lawyer. They have a Link opens in new windowlist of solicitors who practise law in Latvia.

Whether you are held in custody or not you can inform the authority in charge of the proceedings (investigator/prosecutor/court) that you want to seek legal advice. You will receive information about duty solicitors or a duty solicitor will be notified that you need legal advice, and you will be provided with it. 

The best option is for you or your relatives to reach an agreement with a lawyer who will handle your case for as long as is necessary. 

Paying for a lawyer

Lawyers require payment and the client and lawyer agree on remuneration in writing. If there is no agreement concluded with a lawyer, the state will provide the necessary legal advice for you and it will be paid from the state budget.

Related links

Link opens in new windowLaw on criminal proceedings

Link opens in new windowLaw on the bar association

Link opens in new windowLaw on state provided legal aid

Link opens in new windowRegulation on state provided legal aid

Link opens in new windowBar Association of Latvia

Link opens in new windowLegal aid authority

Last update: 15/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница латвийски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

What are the stages of a criminal investigation?

The purpose of the pre-trial proceedings is to:

  • find out if a crime has been committed;
  • who is to be charged with a criminal offence;
  • whether it is possible to dismiss the case, close it, or take it to court.

The pre-trial criminal proceedings have two stages – investigation and prosecution.

The investigation is carried out by different police authorities including the Link opens in new windowState Police, Link opens in new windowState Security Police, Link opens in new windowFinancial Police, Military Police, Link opens in new windowPrison Authorities Board, Link opens in new windowBureau for the Prevention and Combating of Corruption, Link opens in new windowState Border Guard, customs authorities, captains of vessels on the high seas, commanders of military units of the National Armed Forces deployed on foreign territories. The authority of the jurisdiction in which the crime has been committed undertakes the investigation. The Link opens in new windowProsecutor’s Office can also carry out an investigation.

The Link opens in new windowprosecuting authorities carry out the prosecution.

My rights during the investigation

Click on the links below to find out more about your rights during the pre-trial investigation stages of the criminal process:

Investigation (1)

The purpose of the investigation

The purpose of an investigation is to find out whether a crime has been committed; who is to be charged with a criminal offence; if the case can be dismissed.

An investigator (usually a police officer) will work with you. During the investigation stage, you can be detained for 48 hours and can be remanded in custody as a security measure.

The total time available for the investigation and prosecution depends on the seriousness of the offence which you are suspected of (from 6 to 22 months with the possibility to extend it for another 6 months). If these time limits are not met, all security measures and limitations on your property rights must be revoked.

What will I be told about what is happening?

The police officer who carries out the investigation will tell you what is happening.

Will an interpreter be provided if I don’t speak the language?

An interpreter will be provided for you; the police officer/ prosecutor will take care of that. The interpreter will translate everything that might be necessary - documents, what is said by the investigator and the lawyer, as well as your evidence.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

If you do not speak the local language, you are not obliged to have a lawyer but it is advisable since you may be unfamiliar with the local situation and laws. You can choose a lawyer or you can ask the investigating officer to provide a duty solicitor.

If you are detained a lawyer will be invited to represent you within 48 hours. It is advisable for any foreign lawyer participating in the proceedings to do so together with a local lawyer.

An interpreter will be made available as soon as possible since his/her presence is needed to explain the situation to you and for questioning.

Will I be asked to provide information?  Should I provide information?

You have the right to give information but it is not an obligation. You have the right to remain silent and this cannot be used against you and interpreted as failure to cooperate with the investigation.

What happens if I say something that is bad for my case?

Your evidence will be seen together with other evidence in the case. You do not have to incriminate yourself. You have the right to make any statement you consider necessary. You have the right not to testify.

Can I contact a family member or friend?

If you are detained you have the right to ask the investigator to inform your immediate family, other relatives, your work place or educational establishment etc.

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

Yes - the investigation is carried out with respect for human rights.

Can I contact my Embassy if I am from another country?

You have the right to request that your embassy/ consulate be informed.

I am from another country. Do I have to be present during the investigation?

You have to be present during the investigation. The investigating officer decides whether it is possible to participate in the investigation process via video link or telephone conferencing facility.

Can I be sent back to my home country?

There is no such requirement in the law but expulsion from the Republic of Latvia is a possible penalty which can be imposed. This can be applied only on the basis of a court ruling.

Will I be held in custody or released?

The investigating magistrate takes a decision about your detention within 48 hours of your arrest. You can be detained if a custodial sentence is envisaged for the crime you have committed and if no other security measure can ensure that:-

  • you will not evade the investigation/ court proceedings/ enforcement of the ruling;
  • you will not obstruct the course of the investigation;
  • you will not commit another crime.

The investigating magistrate will hear from you before taking the decision regarding your detention. You have the right to submit documents suggesting that your detention would not be reasonable. The presence of a lawyer and an interpreter will be assured for you.

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

You may leave the country with the permission of the investigating officer (usually in writing).

Will I be asked for fingerprints, samples of my DNA (e.g. hair, saliva) or other bodily fluids?

Click on the link to get information about your rights.

Can there be a body search?

Click on the link to get information about your rights.

Can my home, business premises, car etc be searched?

Click on the link to get information about your rights.

Can I appeal?

You have the right to appeal against the decision of the investigating magistrate to the Chairman of the Court. You have the right to appeal against actions taken by the investigating officer/ prosecutor to the supervising prosecutor/ a senior prosecutor respectively.

You should submit complaints about decisions of the investigating officer, prosecutor or investigating magistrate within 10 days but you can complain about their actions throughout the investigation process.

You can submit the complaint in a language you know. The complaint must be reviewed within 10 days of receipt. If the complaint is not written in the official language, the deadline will be counted from the date on which the translation is available; you will be informed of this.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

You have the right to plead guilty during the investigation/ prosecution to all / some charges or one charge.

If you plead guilty, it is considered a mitigating circumstance that might lead to a less severe penalty or serve as a basis for terminating the criminal proceedings. If you cooperate with the investigation/ prosecution, it might facilitate the application of less stringent security measures/ release from custody.

Can the charges be changed before the trial?

The charges against you can be changed if the prosecutor has obtained additional evidence. The initial charges against you must be changed if they have proved to be incorrect - then the prosecutor will terminate the prosecution for that part. The new charges will be presented to you.

Can I be charged with an offence that I have already been charged with in another Member State?

Charges can be brought against you but you cannot be tried and convicted if you have already been tried or acquitted for the same offence in another state.

Will I get information about the witnesses against me?

You will receive information about witnesses who give evidence against you. The prosecutor will give you the case file after the completion of the investigation into the case and before it is sent to the court, and you will be able to familiarise yourself with the statements of witnesses.

Will I get information about other evidence against me?

You will receive the case file and it will contain all the evidence the prosecutor is going to use against you in court. The prosecutor will give you copies of the case file.

I have already been convicted of this crime in another Member State. What happens now?

You cannot be tried for the same offence in Latvia. The double jeopardy rule (ne bis in idem) applies to EU Member States.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

Information about your criminal record will be requested.

Prosecution (2)

The purpose of the prosecution stage

The purpose of the prosecution is to establish a criminal offence; identify the person who should be charged with that offence; conclude if the case can be dismissed or closed and forwarded to the court. The Link opens in new windowprosecutor will work with you.

The total time available for the investigation and prosecution depends on the seriousness of the offence which you are suspected of (from 6 to 22 months with the possibility to extend it for another 6 months). If these time limits are not met, all security measures and limitations on property rights must be revoked.

What will I be told about what is happening?

The prosecutor who carries out the investigative measures (probably the same measures as during the investigation) will tell you about what is happening.

Will an interpreter be provided if I do not speak the language?

An interpreter will be provided for you; the prosecutor will take care of that. The interpreter will translate everything that might be necessary - documents, what is said by the prosecutor and the lawyer, as well as your evidence.

At what stage will I be able to speak to a lawyer?

If you do not speak the local language, it is advisable to have a lawyer since you may be unfamiliar with the local situation and laws. It is advisable for any foreign lawyer participating in the proceedings to do so together with a local lawyer. You can choose a lawyer or you can ask the prosecutor to provide a duty solicitor.

An interpreter will be made available as soon as possible since his/her presence is needed to explain the situation, for questioning etc.

Will I be asked for information?  Should I provide information?

You have the right to give information but it is not an obligation. You have the right to remain silent and this cannot be used against you and interpreted as failure to cooperate.

What happens if I say something that can be used against me in the case?

Your evidence will be seen together with other evidence in the case. You do not have to incriminate yourself. You have the right to make any statement you consider necessary. You have the right not to testify.

Can I contact a family member or friend?

If you are detained you have the right to ask the prosecutor to inform your immediate family, other relatives, your work place or educational establishment etc.

Can I see a doctor if I need one?

Yes - the prosecution is carried out with respect for human rights.

Can I contact my Embassy if I am from another country?

You have the right to request that your embassy/ consulate be informed.

I am from another country. Do I have to be present during the investigation?

You have to be present during the prosecution stage. The prosecutor decides whether it is possible to participate in the investigation process via video link or telephone conferencing facility.

Can I be sent back to my home country?

There is no such requirement in the law but there is an additional penalty envisaged - expulsion from the Republic of Latvia. This can be applied only Link opens in new windowon the basis of a court ruling

Will I be held in custody or released?

The investigating magistrate takes a decision about your detention. You can be detained if a custodial sentence is possible for the crime you have committed and if no other security measure can ensure that you will not evade the investigation/ court proceedings/ enforcement of the ruling; will not obstruct the course of the investigation; will not commit another crime.

The investigating magistrate will hear from you before taking a decision regarding your detention. You have the right to submit documents suggesting that your detention would be unreasonable. The presence of a lawyer and an interpreter will be assured for you.

Can I leave the country during the investigation?

You may leave the country with the permission of the prosecutor (usually in writing).

Will I be asked for fingerprints, samples of my DNA (e.g. hair, saliva) or other bodily fluids?

Click on the link to get information about your rights.

Can there be a body search?

Click on the link to get information about your rights.

Can my home, business premises, car etc. be searched?

Click on the link to get information about your rights.

Can I appeal?

You have the right to appeal against the decision of the investigating magistrate to the Chairman of the Court. You have the right to appeal against the actions of the prosecutor to a senior prosecutor.

You should submit complaints about the decisions of the prosecutor/ investigating magistrate within 10 days. Complaints about the actions of the prosecutor can be submitted throughout the investigation process.

You can submit the complaint in a language you know. The complaint must be reviewed within 10 days of receipt. If the complaint is not written in the official language, the deadline will be counted from the date on which the translation is available; you will be informed of this.

Can I plead guilty to all or some of the charges before the trial?

You have the right to plead guilty during the investigation / prosecution to all / some of the charges or one charge.

If you plead guilty, it is considered a mitigating circumstance that might lead to a less severe penalty. If you plead guilty and cooperate with the investigation/ prosecution, this might help in establishing less stringent security measures/ release from custody.

If you plead guilty, the criminal proceedings may be brought to an end.  Possible outcomes are:-

  • a conditional discharge from criminal liability;
  • the prosecutor’s order for the applicable penalty;
  • an agreement with the prosecutor about you pleading guilty and the applicable penalty, which will then be  validated by the court, etc.

Can the charges be changed before the trial?

The charges against you can be changed if the prosecutor has obtained additional evidence. The charges against you can be changed if the prosecutor recognises they have proved not to be correct - then the prosecutor will terminate the prosecution for that part of the charges. The new charges will be presented to you.

Can I be charged with an offence that I have already been charged with in another Member State?

Charges can be brought against you but you cannot be tried and convicted if you have already been tried or acquitted for the same offence in another state.

Will I get information about the witnesses against me?

You will receive information about witnesses who give evidence against you. The prosecutor will give you the case file with the witness statements after the completion of the investigation and before the case is sent to court.

Will I get information about other evidence against me?

You will receive the case file and it will contain all the evidence the prosecutor is going to use against you in court. The prosecutor will give you copies of the case file.

I have already been convicted of this crime in another Member State. What happens now?

You cannot be tried for the same offence in Latvia. The double jeopardy rule (ne bis in idem) applies to EU Member States.

Will information be requested about my criminal record?

Yes, information about your criminal record will be requested.

Certain procedural actions (3)

Will I be asked for fingerprints, samples of my DNA (e.g. hair, saliva) or other bodily fluids?

You can be asked to give fingerprints or samples of your DNA. Samples of other bodily fluids can be requested and taken if it is necessary for the investigation of a particular offence.

You have the right to acquaint yourself with a decision about an examination by an expert before it is forwarded for execution, provided the examination concerns you. You have the right to ask questions about the examination by an expert before the examination takes place.

You are obliged to submit to an expert examination. You have the obligation to give samples for a comparative examination or to allow them to be obtained.

If you give samples for a comparative examination willingly, that will be noted. You have the right to be told about information that is recorded and can ask to add anything you consider necessary before signing the record. If you do not allow samples to be taken for a comparative examination, they will be obtained using coercive measures on the basis of a decision by the investigating magistrate.

Can there be a body search?

Your body can be visually examined if there are traces of criminal activity on it, any specific markings or characteristics, etc. Only a person of the same sex / medical specialist can perform a visual examination of your body. A written record is made of the visual examination and you have the right to be told about it and to comment on it.

Your body can be searched if items or documents significant to the investigation are concealed in your clothes, belongings, body or its open cavities. Only a person of the same sex can search your body in the presence of a medical professional. A decision to perform a body search is not required if you are in detention. A decision to perform a body search is not required if it is performed during the searching of a room or area and you are present at that time.

Can my home, business premises, car etc. be searched?

Your home, business premises, car etc. can be searched. The investigating magistrate or court takes the decision about the search but the investigator’s decision, approved by the prosecutor is enough in urgent cases.

You or an adult member of your family have the right to be present during the search especially if it is performed at your official residence/ work place; except if you are under arrest. If you or an adult member of your family cannot be present during the search a representative of the local municipality, manager/ governor of the premises/ building must be invited.

You have the right to be told about the decision about the search before the search takes place, and the investigator has the duty to present the decision to you. All items found and seized during the search must be shown to you, recorded and wrapped and sealed, if appropriate.

You have the right to request that the site of the search be returned to its previous state if that is practically possible. You have the right to be told about the records of the search, express remarks and request that they are entered in the records. You have the right to a lawyer and interpreter during the search.

Related links

Link opens in new windowLaw on criminal proceedings

Link opens in new windowCriminal law

Link opens in new windowState Police authorities

Link opens in new windowPublic Prosecutor’s Office

Link opens in new windowLaw on the register of penalties

Link opens in new windowLaw on detention procedures

Link opens in new windowLaw on custodial procedures

Link opens in new windowLaw on the bar association

Last update: 15/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница латвийски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

3 - My rights during the trial

Where will the trial be held?

The case will be heard by a Link opens in new windowdistrict/city court or for a very serious crime, by a Link opens in new windowregional court. Usually the location will depend on the place where the crime has been committed. You will be given a written notice.

The case is heard in an open court sitting, with some exceptions (sexual offences; necessity to protect a state secret, etc.).

A single judge will examine the case in the Court of First Instance but the Chairman of the Court may require the case to be examined a college of three professional judges. The judge/college decides the case.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

The public prosecutor can change the charges in the course of the trial to more/ less serious charges.

If the public prosecutor changes the charges to less serious ones, but the factual evidence remains unchanged, the new charges are entered in the minutes of court proceedings.

If the charges are changed to less serious ones, when factual evidence has changed or to more serious ones but the factual evidence has not changed, the new charges should be entered in the minutes of court proceedings. You can request that they be issued in writing.

If the public prosecutor changes charges to more serious ones because new factual evidence has been found in relation to the crime, the court may announce a recess and the prosecutor must present the new charges to the court within one month.

Information about the new charges will be sent to you, your lawyer, the victim and the victim’s representative and the date of the trial will be stated.

What happens if I plead guilty to some or all of the charges?

If the defendant pleads guilty, this might mean that a less severe sentence is applied, This is also the case where a guilty plea is entered to part of the charges.

If you plead guilty to all of the charges, the case can be tried without testing the evidence and by assessing only the evidence which relates to you personally, and to compensation in the form of damages. In this case, there are limited possibilities for an appeal against the court’s ruling.

Do I have to be present during the trial?

You have to be present at court hearings at all times until the judgement is issued. You can request that the case be heard without you, but in this case, your representative should be present.

If you are in another country/ your location is unknown/ attendance in court is not possible, the case can be tried in absentia. (i.e. without you)

You do not have the right to participate in the trial via video link from another Member State.

Will I have an interpreter during the trial?

An interpreter will be provided for you by the court.

Will I have a lawyer during the trial?

You yourself decide about the need for a lawyer. It is mandatory to have a lawyer in the following circumstances:

  • if you are a minor/ legally incapacitated/ have learning difficulties;
  • if a decision is made regarding use of coercive measures of a medical nature;
  • if you are not able to exercise your procedural rights due to physical/ mental incapacity;
  • if you are illiterate/ have received a low level of education that does not allow you to exercise your procedural rights;
  • if negotiations have been started on a deal with the prosecution;
  • if the case is tried in your absence.

In these cases, a lawyer will be appointed for you and you can reject him/her except where coercive measures of a medical nature are applied. You have the right to request a different lawyer.

Can I speak at the trial?

You have the right to give evidence and express your opinion in court. You have no obligation to give evidence – this cannot be considered as failure to cooperate with the court. You have the right to submit your evidence to the court in writing; the court will read it out. You are not obliged to incriminate yourself; the public prosecutor is obliged to prove your guilt.

You are not obliged to tell the truth; a new case cannot be started against you because you have deliberately given false evidence/ refused to give evidence. Your behaviour can be taken into account in sentencing but it cannot be seen as an aggravating circumstance.

What are my rights in relation to the evidence against me?

You can introduce new evidence during the court proceedings to support your alibi, rule out criminal liability/ mitigate guilt and challenge the evidence of the prosecution.

You have the right to ask questions of witnesses and the victim, you have the right to call witnesses including those that have not been questioned previously; to submit documents, physical/ electronic evidence; to ask the court to request objects/ documents.

You have the right to introduce evidence throughout the whole process of court proceedings – up until the moment when the court announces that the court investigation has been completed.

You have the right to use the services of a private detective. The court evaluates all evidence in its entirety when deciding on a case.

The court takes a decision about calling your witnesses after seeking the opinion of other parties in the proceedings. If your request is overruled, you can resubmit it repeatedly.

You and your lawyer have the right to ask questions of all witnesses in the case. Their evidence is analysed in the defence statement that you/ your lawyer will deliver.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

Information about your unspent convictions will be taken into account Convictions that have been removed from the criminal record due to the statute of limitation can be seen as circumstances characterising your personality. These convictions are taken into account when deciding the penalty, including detention.

Information about your criminal record is requested during the stages of Link opens in new windowinvestigation and Link opens in new windowprosecution; this information can be submitted in court proceedings. The court will take into account your criminal record when making the judgement.

The law allows contact with the competent authorities in another Member State and for information to be requested about your previous convictions there.

What happens at the end of the trial?

The court delivers a decision to acquit or convict, or a decision bringing the criminal proceedings to an end if circumstances suggest that the trial should not continue. This can happen if there is not enough evidence to justify the charges, or if the public prosecutor drops the charges.

Possible sentences:

  • custodial sentence (3 months – 15 years, and for serious offences, up to 20 years/ lifetime imprisonment);
  • community service (40 – 280 hours);
  • a fine (3 – 200 times minimum monthly wages);
  • confiscation of property (the property is seized without compensation and held by the state);
  • extradition from Latvia (supplementary punishment: prohibition of entry for 3- 10 years);
  • limitation of rights (supplementary punishment: prohibition on undertaking certain types of/ any trade; certain professional/ other types of activities; on taking certain office; on obtaining statutory permissions/ licences; 1-5 years);
  • probation (1-3 years).

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

A person is recognised as a victim by a decision of the investigator/ prosecutor if the person has requested it in writing. The court can recognise a person as a victim up until the beginning of court investigation proceedings.

The victim can submit an application for damages; introduce evidence; influence the development of the case (conciliation with the defendant, consent to a prosecutor’s deal regarding sentencing, etc.).

The victim presents his/her opinion about the sentence and damages claimed during the trial. The victim can appeal against the judgement of the Court of First Instance and a ruling of the Court of Appeal.

Related links

Link opens in new windowLaw on criminal proceedings

Link opens in new windowCriminal law

Link opens in new windowLaw on the register of penalties

Link opens in new windowLaw on detention procedures

Link opens in new windowLaw on the activities of detectives

Link opens in new windowLatvian courts

Last update: 15/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница латвийски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

4 - My rights after the court

Can I appeal?

You have the right to appeal against the Link opens in new windowjudgement of the Court of First Instance by submitting the appeal claim within 10 days of the date when the ruling is issued. The court can extend the deadline to 20 days.

The appeal claim should be addressed to a court one level higher (the College of Criminal Cases at a Link opens in new windowregional court / the Chamber of Criminal Cases of the Link opens in new windowSupreme Court) but it should be filed at the court which issued the ruling.

It is not possible to appeal separately against the written/ oral decisions taken during a trial. They can only be appealed against together with the court ruling.

The appeal claim can be made if you consider that the decision of the court was wrong - for instance, the sentence is too severe/ inappropriate legal interpretation of your behaviour (the application of an inappropriate article/ part of an article of Criminal Law) etc.

What happens if I appeal?

The enforcement of the ruling is frozen if you file an appeal. If you are in prison during the appeal the countdown of the 10/ 20 days deadline for submission of the appeal claim will start from the day when the ruling is served on you in a language you understand.

If you experience health problems/ family related circumstances that might require your release from custody, you can ask for a review of the grounds for imprisonment. The court is not obliged to approve such a request.

The court will inform you of the date when they will begin hearing the appeal claim. There is no deadline set for that though the courts observe that cases should be reviewed within reasonable time limits.

You have the right to introduce new evidence in the appeal claim, explaining why it is necessary to examine it and stating the reasons for not presenting the evidence to the Court of First Instance. You have the right to request that the Court of Appeal examine the evidence if you believe is important to substantiate the appeal claim.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

The following parties are invited to participate in the appeal hearing: the prosecutor, all persons who have challenged the court ruling, defence lawyers/ representatives. A team of three professional judges will review your claim.

During the hearing only your claim is reviewed except when the court has doubts about the findings of the Court of First Instance.

In an appeal case the court may take one of five possible decisions:

  • the ruling of the Court of First Instance stands; it is revoked and a new ruling is passed;
  • it is revoked partially and a new one is passed in relation to that part;
  • it is revoked and the case is closed;
  • it is revoked entirely/ partially and the case is returned to the Court of First Instance for a new hearing.

What happens if the appeal is successful/ unsuccessful?

If your claim is satisfied and no one else (the prosecutor/ victim) challenges the court’s ruling under the cassation procedure the judgement/ decision of the Court of Appeal enters into force.

If your claim is not successful, you have the right to challenge the ruling/ decision of the Court of Appeal under the cassation procedure in the Link opens in new windowDepartment of criminal cases of the Supreme Court Senate. A cassation claim has to be submitted within 10 days of the day the ruling of the Court of Appeal was made available. The court can extend the deadline to 20 days.

You are entitled to compensation if you are acquitted, or the case is closed for some legal reason.

If your claim is approved, the record of your conviction will be held in Link opens in new windowthe Information centre of the Ministry of the Interior of Latvia.

There are very strict requirements in place for the submission of a cassation claim – you have to provide proof that the Criminal Law/ Law on Criminal Proceedings have been substantially violated.

In certain cases you have the right to request reopening of the criminal process if new circumstances are discovered after the ruling/ decision has taken effect. There is no deadline for such reviews. .

In certain cases, (if there have been significant violations of the Criminal Law/ Law on Criminal Proceedings) even if you have not submitted a cassation claim your lawyer still be able to submit an application for the review of the ruling/ decision which is in force. There is no deadline for filing the application.

A ruling of the Court of First Instance enters into force and is final if it has not been challenged through an appeal/ cassation procedure). The ruling/ decision of the Court of Appeal enters into force and is final if it has not been challenged under the cassation procedure. The decision of the Court of Cassation enters into force and is final on the day the case is reviewed.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back there after the trial?

If you have received a custodial sentence you can be sent back to your home country after the trial if the competent authority of your country has requested your extradition and the Link opens in new windowProsecutor General’s Office of Latvia has agreed or vice versa – it has requested your country to take you to serve your sentence there. Your transfer is not automatic.

The conditions of transfer are as follows:

  • you must be a citizen of the country where the sentence will be served;
  • the court’s ruling must be in force;
  • at least 6 months must be left to run on your sentence;
  • the offence must also be an offence in your country;
  • you have expressed a wish to serve the sentence in your country/ have agreed to the transfer.

The prison administration will inform you of your right to request a transfer within 10 days of receipt of the order concerning the enforcement of the ruling. You have to submit your request in writing to the Prosecutor General's Office of Latvia.

If you do not want to serve the sentence in your country / do not agree to such a request by the authorities of your country, you must submit a written refusal to the Prosecutor General's Office of Latvia. The request for transfer must be reviewed within 10 days.

Information about the charges/ convictions

Information about your convictions in Latvia is held without your consent in the active database of the Register of the Link opens in new windowInformation centre of the Ministry of the Interior of Latvia until the conviction expires/ is annulled. If you have received an administrative penalty, the record is kept for 1 year after it has been served and then it is moved to the archives of the Register. There is no opportunity to challenge this.

Related links

Link opens in new windowLaw on criminal proceedings

Link opens in new windowCriminal law

Link opens in new windowLatvian courts

Link opens in new windowLaw on the register of penalties

Link opens in new windowLaw on compensation for damages caused by a party in charge of proceedings

Last update: 15/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Road traffic offences

How are minor road traffic offences dealt with?

If you have exceeded the speed limit (50 km/h in towns and 90 km/h outside towns) by up to 20 km/h then a Link opens in new windowpolice officer can give you a warning/ impose a fine of 5 LVL.

If you have exceeded the speed limit by 21-30 km/h then a police officer can give you a warning/ impose a fine of 20 LVL.

The amount of a fine increases the more you exceed the speed limit and can go up to 300 LVL and include the withdrawal of your driver’s licence for 3 – 6 months.

If you have parked in a prohibited place, a police officer can impose a fine of 20 LVL.

If you do not have a driver’s licence, car registration documents or certificate of roadworthiness etc. with you while driving, a police officer can give you a warning/ impose a fine of 2 LVL.

If you have been driving without headlights during daylight, a police officer can give you a warning/ impose a fine of 5 LVL. For the same violation during the hours of darkness / in conditions of poor visibility, a police officer can impose a fine of 30 LVL.

If you or your passenger are not wearing a seat belt while driving, a police officer can give you a warning/ impose a fine of 20 LVL.

A police officer draws up the report of the violation and can take a decision regarding the penalty on the spot. You can appeal against the penalty to a higher authority within 1 month of notification of the decision. The subsequent decision can be appealed again to the Link opens in new windowadministrative district court. The claim should be submitted within 1 month.

Municipal police deal with violations of obligations by pedestrians. You can be charged with a fine of 5 to 20 LVL. You can challenge the decision in the administrative district court within 1 month.

If you have been driving while under the influence of alcohol with an alcohol concentration level of 0.2 – 0.5 ‰ and have held a driving licence for less than 2 years a police officer/ district / city court judge imposes a fine of 100 – 200 LVL involving withdrawal of your driver’s licence for 3 months. You can challenge the decision within 1 month to a higher authority and after that – to the administrative district court (for a fine imposed by a police officer) / Link opens in new windowregional court (for a fine imposed by a judge).

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

Administrative penalties will appear on your criminal record. Information about those penalties is stored without seeking your consent in the active database of the Register of the Link opens in new windowInformation centre of the Ministry of the Interior of Latvia for 1 year after they have been spent but afterwards the records are moved to the archive database of the Register.

Related links

Link opens in new windowRoad traffic code

Link opens in new windowCode of administrative offences

Link opens in new windowLaw on administrative proceedings

Link opens in new windowLaw on Police

Link opens in new windowLaw on the register of criminal records

Link opens in new windowState Police

Link opens in new windowRoad traffic safety directorate

Last update: 15/02/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Lithuania

These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected of or accused of a crime, which is dealt with by a trial in court. For information on minor offences like road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Summary of the criminal process

Violations of law in Lithuania may be viewed in two ways – either as criminal acts, i.e. acts prohibited by criminal law, or as less serious administrative breaches of law. Breaches of criminal law in Lithuania are called criminal acts. Criminal acts are divided into crimes and misdemeanours. Crimes are those criminal acts which may be punishable by imprisonment while misdemeanours do not result in imprisonment.

The following is a summary of the usual stages of the criminal process in the Republic of Lithuania:

Pre-trial investigation

The pre-trial investigation starts when it is established that a crime has been committed. This stage ends when the prosecutor writes up a bill of indictment unless grounds to terminate the pre-trial investigation were established first.

Proceedings before the court of first instance

This stage involves dealing with the most important questions that emerge during the criminal proceedings:  the court determines whether a crime has been committed, decides whether the accused is guilty of committing that crime and imposes a penalty on the person found guilty.

The proceedings before the court of first instance are in two parts. In the first part, the court makes a decision about whether there are grounds to have a trial. At the second stage – the court hearing – the case is heard and a decision is made based on the evidence presented.

Proceedings before the court of appeal

This is the stage where the legality of the decision of the court of first instance is examined to establish whether the grounds of appeal are justified.

Execution of the judgment or order

This is the stage where the legal sanctions imposed by the court are executed and any other new procedural issues are decided.

Proceedings before the court of cassation

This is the stage where judgments or orders passed by the court of first instance and the court of appeal which are in force are reviewed. The facts of the case will not be re-examined – the decision will be based on whether the law has been properly applied.

Appeal and cassation procedures are not obligatory; a case goes through those procedural stages only if petitions of appeal and cassation are lodged.

The proceedings in certain cases have their own specifics. In private prosecutions there is no pre-trial investigation stage. In proceedings for a penal order, the trial before the court of first instance is conducted in a different way and no appeal or cassation review is possible.

Details about all of these stages in the procedure and about your rights can be found in the factsheets.  This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint.  Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

Link opens in new window1 – Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 – My rights during the pre-trial investigation of a crime

  • Start of the pre-trial investigation
  • Questioning and collection of material during the pre-trial investigation
  • Procedural coercive measures
  • Conclusion of the pre-trial investigation

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the court passes the judgment

Link opens in new window5 – Traffic offences

Related links

Link opens in new windowCriminal Code (in Lithuanian)

Link opens in new windowCriminal Code (in English)

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure (in Lithuanian)

Last update: 18/02/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

1 - Getting legal advice

Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.

Finding a lawyer

You are entitled to have a lawyer from the moment you are detained or the start of your first interrogation. In some cases you may be defended by a lawyer‘s assistant but most often, it is a lawyer who will be your defence counsellor.

You are not obliged to have a lawyer – you may refuse such assistance and defend yourself in person. But this is only possible if you know the language of the procedure. If you do not know the language – in this case Lithuanian – you are obliged to have a lawyer.

If you need a lawyer, you can find one in the list held by the Link opens in new windowCouncil of the Lithuanian Bar Association.

You have the right to find a suitable lawyer yourself. Someone who you authorise may also find a lawyer on your behalf.

Police officers must explain to you about your right to have a lawyer from the moment you are detained, or the start of your first interrogation. When officers are reading you your rights, you may state your wish to be represented by a lawyer during the criminal process. You will have to confirm this decision by signing the procedural document.

How can I find a lawyer if I am in detention?

If you have been detained, you will have to be questioned within 24 hours. Before the start of this interrogation, you will have to find a lawyer, or one will have to be appointed for you, as you are entitled to have a lawyer when any procedural acts, including interrogation, take place.

If you have been detained and you already have a lawyer, inform the officer that you want to contact your lawyer. You may also phone members of your family or friends and ask them to find a suitable lawyer for you.

If you do not want to find a lawyer yourself, and you do not speak the language of the procedure, the officer or the prosecutor will appoint a lawyer for you who will provide his services free of charge. In that case, you are not obliged to contact anyone yourself.

How to get state-guaranteed legal aid

If you do not have money to hire a lawyer, you may get legal aid free of charge. If you want to be represented by a lawyer providing state-guaranteed legal aid, you need to apply to any of the services in the five major cities that provide Link opens in new windowstate-guaranteed legal aid.

If you do not speak Lithuanian, you are obliged to have a lawyer. If you have not found a lawyer yourself, the investigating officer or prosecutor will automatically appoint a lawyer who provides State-guaranteed legal aid. In this case, irrespective of whether you can afford to hire a lawyer or not, you will be provided with legal aid free of charge. But don’t forget that you may refuse the services of an appointed lawyer and find another at any point in the procedure.

Related links

Link opens in new windowLaw on state-guaranteed legal aid

Last update: 18/02/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

2 - My rights during the pre-trial investigation of a crime and before the case goes to court

Why and how is a pre-trial investigation carried out?

A pre-trial investigation is the first stage of the criminal process. The purpose of the pre-trial investigation is to quickly and fully determine all significant circumstances of a crime and identify the person who might have committed that crime. The pre-trial investigation is necessary to create the conditions for a proper hearing of the case in court. It also ensures that the rights of the various people involved in the case are respected, for example, their right to receive compensation for damages.

During the pre-trial investigation stage you will be considered as a suspect.

The pre-trial investigation is carried out by investigating officers. The pre-trial investigation is organised and headed by a prosecutor. The prosecutor may decide to carry out the whole pre-trial investigation, or part of it, in person. Some parts of the procedure may also be carried out by a pre-trial investigation judge.

What are the stages of a pre-trial investigation?

Start of the pre-trial investigation

A pre-trial investigation starts when there is credible information to the effect that a crime has been committed. A pre-trial investigation is started not against a person but because a crime has been committed. Only later will the procedure turn into a case against a particular person.

Questioning and collection of material during the pre-trial investigation

In Lithuania, all information which confirms or disproves the circumstances of a case during the pre-trial investigation is called not evidence but material. It will be for the court to decide during its hearing whether the material which has been collected will become evidence.

The material obtained by questioning the suspect and the witnesses, as well as other material, is collected during this phase in order to determine the circumstances of the crime and to establish who might have committed it.

Procedural coercive measures

All the actions during the pre-trial investigation which restrict a person's rights are called procedural coercive measures. They are divided into measures of remand and other procedural coercive measures.

Remand measure may be used during a pre-trial investigation to ensure that the suspect is present during the proceedings and that the pre-trial investigation is conducted without any obstacles. They can also be used to prevent new crimes from being committed.

Other procedural coercive measures are also used to collect material which is important for the investigation. Coercive measures are only used if there is no other way to achieve the result which is needed.

Conclusion of the pre-trial investigation

A pre-trial investigation may be brought to an end if it is not possible to find enough material to prove the guilt of the suspect or because there are other obstacles to the procedure. The investigation may also be terminated if it can be acknowledged that the suspect cannot be held legally responsible for the crime committed.

The investigation will also come to an end if the case is referred to the court.

Finally, a pre-trial investigation may also be concluded by ordering that the defendant should receive medical treatment where there are legal reasons why the defendant cannot be tried in court, such as diminished responsibility.

A case is referred to the court when the prosecutor decides that enough material has been collected to prove the guilt of the suspect.

Collection of material during the pre-trial investigation and procedural coercive measures do not follow each other in chronological order. In these factsheets, they are dealt with as separate stages because of their different nature and aims. Often, they happen simultaneously, but remand measures (detention) may not be applied before the suspect has been questioned.

My rights during the pre-trial investigation

To find out more about your rights during the pre-trial investigation, click on the links below:

Start of the pre-trial investigation (1)

Why can a pre-trial investigation be started?

A pre-trial investigation will be started if credible information that a crime has been committed is received. During a pre-trial investigation, the purpose is to quickly and fully determine all significant circumstances of the crime and identify the person who might have committed that crime.

In Lithuania, a pre-trial investigation is started not against a person but because a crime has been committed. Later, you will be involved in the pre-trial investigation as a suspect if there is enough material to reasonably assume that you might have committed the crime.

Why am I suspected of committing the crime?

You will become a suspect if you:

  • have been detained on suspicion of having committed a crime;
  • are questioned about a crime which you are suspected of committing;
  • are summoned to an interrogation after a notification of suspicion has been drawn up;
  • are in hiding, or you can’t be located and the prosecutor or the pre-trial investigation judge has decided that you are a suspect.

You have the right to know what you are suspected of. Before questioning starts, you must be served with a notification of suspicion which will indicate the place, time, and other circumstances of the crime. In addition, it must indicate which law has been broken and set out your rights. You must sign the notification to confirm that you received it.

What can I do if I don’t understand the language of the procedure?

If you don’t understand the language of the procedure, an interpreter will be appointed for you, and the documents will be translated into the language you understand. You don’t have to answer any questions or sign any documents if you don’t understand them.

Can I meet with a lawyer?

From the moment of your detention or when questioning starts, you have the right to have a lawyer. If you don’t understand the language of the procedure, you must have a lawyer. If you wish, you may find a lawyer yourself. Otherwise, the pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor will appoint a lawyer for you free of charge. For more information see Link opens in new windowGetting legal advice.

Can I complain?

From the moment when you become a suspect, you don’t have to be a passive observer. You may actively participate in the pre-trial investigation against you and influence both the procedure itself and its possible outcome.

You can submit petitions. You have the right to challenge the actions or decisions of the pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor and, in certain cases, also the actions or orders of the pre-trial investigation judge.

If you want to file a petition against the actions of the pre-trial officer you must present it to the prosecutor who organises and leads the investigation.

Petitions against the actions and orders of the prosecutor must be submitted to a senior prosecutor. Petitions against a senior prosecutor are submitted to the pre-trial investigation judge.

During the pre-trial investigation, you have the right to request that the pre-trial investigation officer, prosecutor, pre-trial investigation judge, secretary of the court hearing, interpreter, expert, or any specialist should be removed from the investigation.

Can I be charged with an offence which I have already been charged with in another Member State?

If you have already been convicted or acquitted of the same crime in another State, you cannot be punished for that crime a second time. However, if you were tried in another State for a crime committed in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania, or the crime was directed against the State of Lithuania, Lithuania will not have to recognise the judgment passed against you unless Lithuania itself requested the trial to be held in that State.

Questioning and collection of material during the pre-trial investigation (2)

Why would officers want to question me?

You may be interrogated as a suspect only after you have been served with a notification of suspicion which will indicate the place, time, and other circumstances of the crime which you are suspected of committing. You may become a suspect in a case only when there is enough information to reasonably claim that you have committed the crime.

During the pre-trial investigation, you may be questioned by pre-trial investigation officers (as well as the police), a prosecutor and in certain cases, also by a pre-trial investigation judge.

You must always be questioned before any measures of remand, such as arrest, are imposed. An exception to this is that the police may detain you for up to 24 hours before questioning.

What happens if I don’t understand the language of the procedure?

If you don’t understand the language of the procedure, an interpreter must be appointed and the documents must be translated into the language you understand. You don’t have to answer any questions or sign any documents if you don’t understand what you are asked or what you are requested to sign.

An interpreter will participate during the questioning and will orally translate the interrogator's questions and your testimony. The interpreter will also translate the written record of the questioning for you.

Can I meet with a lawyer?

You have the right to have a lawyer from the moment of your detention or the start of your first interrogation. If you don’t understand the language of the procedure, you must have a lawyer. If you wish, you may find a lawyer yourself. Otherwise, the pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor will appoint a lawyer for you free of charge. For more information see Link opens in new windowGetting legal advice.

You have the right to have a lawyer present both during your questioning or when any other procedural steps are taken in your presence.

Will I have to provide information?

You have a right rather than a duty to give a statement. If you prefer not to testify, you may refuse to do so. In addition, you cannot be punished if you do not tell the truth about a crime that you have committed, because, as a suspect, you are not obliged to tell the truth.

If you are summoned to attend an interrogation as a suspect, you are obliged to attend, but you do not have to testify.

Will I get information about the evidence against me?

You have the right to ask the prosecutor to give you access to the materials which are part of the pre-trial investigation and to make copies or extracts from those materials.

However, the prosecutor is entitled to prevent you from seeing all or part of the material if he or she believes that such access may compromise the success of the pre-trial investigation.

What kind of information will I be asked for during the questioning?

If you agree to testify, the first thing you will be asked is whether you plead guilty to the crime you are charged with. Then, irrespective of whether you plead guilty or not, you will be asked to testify about the crime which you are suspected of. After you finish your testimony, you will be asked questions.

All the steps taken during the pre-trial investigation must be recorded in the procedural documents (e.g. records of the questioning).

After questioning is finished, you will be able to familiarise yourself with the record. You have the right to make remarks about the content of your testimony and to add to it.

What will happen if I say something against myself?

The testimony that you give to the pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor cannot be used as evidence in court if you change or deny it during the trial. In that case, your testimony may only be relied on indirectly. Your testimony may be read out during the court hearing and the officer who questioned you during the pre-trial investigation may be called as a witness.

The testimony that you give to the pre-trial investigation judge will be treated as evidence and it may be relied upon by the court in deciding to convict you.

Do I have to be present in person during the investigation if I am from another country?

If you are summoned to the pre-trial investigation, you must attend. If you try to avoid attending, you may be brought to court by the police.

If you have not been remanded or detained, you may leave Lithuania. However, you will still have to be present during the key stages of the pre-trial investigation.

The Link opens in new windowLithuanian Code of Criminal Procedure does not allow you to participate in the pre-trial investigation by video link or using any other similar technology.

Can I plead guilty to the charges against me?

You have the right to testify as well as plead guilty to all or some of the charges against you. However, even if you plead guilty, the pre-trial investigation will still continue. The court will take your confession into account when it passes a judgment against you.

In certain cases, if you confess, it will be possible to hold the hearing under summary proceedings. For more information see Link opens in new windowMy rights during the trial.

Procedural coercive measures (3)

Why can procedural coercive measures be applied against me?

Procedural coercive measures are divided into measures of remand and other procedural coercive measures.

During the pre-trial investigation, measures of remand may be applied in order to ensure that you are present during the procedure and that there are no obstructions to the smooth running of the pre-trial investigation process. They can also be used to prevent commission of other crimes. The strongest measure of remand is arrest.

In addition to ensuring all these aims, other procedural coercive measures may be used for collecting material of significance to the investigation.

Procedural coercive measures are only applied if there is no other way to achieve the aims of the procedure.

Why can I be detained?

You can be detained if you are caught while committing a crime or immediately after you have committed the crime. You may be detained by a law enforcement officer, prosecutor, or by any other person. If you are detained by someone other than an officer, that fact must be immediately reported to the police.

Even if you are detained while committing a crime, or immediately afterwards, you cannot be held in detention unless it is impossible to establish your identity or you might try to avoid the investigation.

You may also be detained at any time after the crime was committed. This is done if there are reasons to believe that you might try to escape or avoid investigation, obstruct the investigation, or commit new crimes and it is not possible to apply immediately to a pre-trial investigation judge for a warrant to arrest you.

You may not be detained for longer than 48 hours. If your identity has been established and you have been questioned, and there are no reasons to order your arrest, you have to be released. If it is decided that you must be arrested, you have to be brought before the court within 48 hours. The court will then decide whether you should be arrested or not.

What can I do if I don’t understand the language of the procedure?

If you don’t understand the language of the procedure, an interpreter must be appointed and relevant documents must be translated into the language you understand. You don’t have to answer any questions or sign any documents if you don’t understand what you are asked or what you are being asked to sign.

Can I meet with a lawyer?

From the moment of your detention or your first questioning, you have the right to have a lawyer. If you don’t understand the language of the procedure, you must have a lawyer. If you wish, you may find a lawyer yourself. Otherwise, the pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor will appoint a lawyer for you free of charge. For more information see Link opens in new windowGetting legal advice.

Who can I inform about my detention?

If you are from another State, you may demand that the Embassy or consulate of your country is told about your detention.

The pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor will inform one member of your family or a close relative named by you about your detention.

If necessary, you will be provided with medical assistance.

What will happen if I am detained under the European Arrest Warrant?

If another Member State has issued a European Arrest Warrant against you, you may be detained and deported to the issuing Member State. If you think it necessary, you have the right to meet with a lawyer.

Can there be a body search?

The pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor has the right to carry out a physical examination in order to find out if there are any traces of crime or any other special marks on your body.

If you object to this, the pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor will issue a warrant which will mean that you have to agree to the search. If this requires you to undress, the examination will be carried out by a pre-trial officer, a prosecutor or a medical doctor of the same sex as you.

The same procedure applies to taking samples for comparative analysis. You may be asked for fingerprints, samples of your DNA, and so on. In more complicated cases, when it is necessary to take samples of your blood, saliva, or any other body fluids, the prosecutor has to call in a specialist.

Can there be a search of premises?

The pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor may carry out a search when there is a reason to believe that in some premises or in any other place, tools used in the crime, goods which have been received or obtained illegally, or things or documents which may be of importance for the investigation of crime may be found.

A search may also take place to establish that another person has those things. A search must be carried out in accordance with a warrant issued by a pre-trial investigation judge. In urgent cases, a search can be carried out on the basis of a warrant issued by the officer or the prosecutor. However, such a warrant must be approved within three days by a pre-trial investigation judge.

Conclusion of the pre-trial investigation (4)

When is the pre-trial investigation completed?

A pre-trial investigation may be completed either when it comes to an end, or when the case goes to court. If there are legal reasons why the defendant cannot be held responsible for the crime, such as diminished responsibility, the pre-trial investigation may be completed by requiring the person to undergo medical treatment.

A pre-trial investigation against you will be terminated if the investigating officers and prosecutors do not collect enough material to prove your guilt, or if any other obstacles to the process appear. The investigation will also be terminated if it becomes clear that you cannot be held legally responsible for the crime committed.

If enough material is collected during the pre-trial investigation to prove your guilt and there are no grounds to terminate the pre-trial investigation, the case will go to court.

What can I do if I don’t understand the language of the procedure?

If you don’t understand the language of the procedure, an interpreter will be appointed for you and the documents will be translated into the language you understand. You don’t have to answer any questions or sign any documents that you don't understand.

Can I meet with a lawyer?

You have the right to have a lawyer from the moment of your detention or from when you are first questioned. If you don’t understand the language of the procedure, you must have a lawyer. If you wish, you may find a lawyer yourself. Otherwise, the pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor will appoint a lawyer for you free of charge. For more information see Link opens in new windowGetting legal advice.

How long may a pre-trial investigation last?

A pre-trial investigation must be completed within the shortest possible time. If the pre-trial investigation is not completed within six months from when you are first questioned, you or your lawyer have the right to file a petition with the pre-trial investigation judge about the delay.

What will happen when the prosecutor has collected all the material needed to prove guilt?

Where the only possible punishment for the crime is a fine, or where this is one of the possible punishments, the prosecutor has the right to decide that you will be fined without going to court.

However, it is the right, not an obligation, of the prosecutor to make this decision.

In other cases, the prosecutor completes the pre-trial investigation by writing up a bill of indictment and refers the case to court.

Can the charges be changed before the case goes to court?

If the charges change during the pre-trial investigation, you must be served with a new notification of suspicion. After the pre-trial investigation is completed and the trial has begun, the charges may be changed only if the prosecutor or the court asks for a change to be made. For more information see Link opens in new windowMy rights during the trial.

Will I get information about evidence against me?

When the prosecutor decides that enough material has been collected to prove your guilt, he or she will notify you and other participants in the procedure that the pre-trial investigation is completed. You will then have the right to see the material which was collected during the pre-trial investigation and to submit petitions to provide further information.

You have to submit a petition if you want to have access to the material. You have the right to make copies of the materials. If you are in custody, your lawyer will be able to see the material and to make copies, etc. Your lawyer will then tell you about the material which has been collected and which forms the basis of the case against you.

You will be able to see the statements given by witnesses. Some witness statements may be given anonymously.

If you want to add more information to the pre-trial investigation, you will have to submit a petition. If the prosecutor accepts this petition, or the petitions filed by other participants, you will have the right to familiarize yourself with this new material.

After all these actions have been completed, the prosecutor writes up the bill of indictment and sends it to court along with the material collected in the case. The prosecutor must serve you with a copy of the bill of indictment. If you don’t understand the Lithuanian language, you must be provided with the translation of the bill of indictment. After it is written up, you become an accused in the case.

Link opens in new windowhttp://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=319053&p_query=&p_tr2=Link opens in new windowhttp://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=319053&p_query=&p_tr2=The language of the proceedings and translations (5)

Can I participate in the trial in my own language?

If you do not understand the language of the proceedings, you will be able to make statements, give testimony and explanations, file applications and petitions, and speak during the trial in the language you know. In all these cases, you will have the right to use the services of an interpreter. All the acts which take place must be explained to you in your own language.

All documents which are served on you (such as the notification of suspicion or the bill of indictment) must also be translated into your native language or any other language you know.

All the material of the case will not be translated for you in writing; when you are familiarizing yourself with the material which forms the basis of the case against you, you have to be assisted by an interpreter who will orally translate the material for you.

You do not have to answer any questions or sign any documents without an interpreter present or if the documents are not translated into a language you understand.

You have the right to have an interpreter during all the stages of the proceedings. The services of the interpreter will be provided to you free of charge.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure (in Lithuanian)

Last update: 18/02/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

3 - My rights during the trial

Which court will hear my case?

Your case will be heard by the court in the area where the crime was committed. In Lithuania, a court of first instance will be either a district or a regional court. Your criminal case will most likely be heard by a district court.

In certain cases, for example, when the crime is punishable by imprisonment for more than six years, the case will be heard by a regional court at first instance.

In Lithuania, there is no jury. Cases are decided by a judge or a panel of judges. A case heard at a court of first instance will be decided by a panel only where the crime committed is punishable by life imprisonment or the accused person is a senior official. Thus, it is normally one judge who hears a criminal case.

Will my trial be in public?

A court trial is normally held in public. But a trial may be held in private if

  • the accused person is a minor;
  • where the case is related to sexual crime;
  • when it is necessary to ensure that the information about the private life of the participants of the procedure is not disclosed to the public;
  • when it is necessary to protect either a State, professional or commercial secret.

The court decides whether a trial should be held in private.

Can the charges be changed during the trial?

Charges may be changed during the trial. However you cannot be sentenced for a more serious crime unless you have been told that the charges are being changed. If the charges are changed during the trial, you, or your lawyer, have the right to ask for the trial to be adjourned in order to prepare your defence against the new charges.

What happens if I plead guilty?

After the prosecutor reads the bill of indictment, the judge will ask you whether you understand the charges against you, and whether you plead guilty or not guilty.

If you plead guilty and are willing to testify immediately, and there is no doubt about the circumstances of the crime, no other evidence will be considered. You must agree to this. The content of all the material (evidence) that has been collected will be read out. This is not possible if you are charged with a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than six years.

Can the trial be held without my participation?

You are obliged to participate in the court hearing of the criminal case. A hearing can be held without you only if you are not in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania and try to avoid appearing at the court.

If you do not come to the hearing without good reason, you may be brought to court by the police. You may ask to be allowed not to be present at a part of the hearing only if other people are also accused in the case and the evidence which is being examined is not connected with you.

You will not be allowed to participate in the trial by a video link; you will have to appear before the court in person.

What can I do if I don’t understand the language of the proceedings?

If you don’t understand the language of the proceedings, an interpreter will be appointed for you, and the documents will be translated into the language you understand. You don’t have to answer any questions or sign any documents if you don’t understand what you are asked or what you are requested to sign.

Can I meet with a lawyer?

You have the right to defend yourself or be defended by a lawyer. If you don’t understand the language of the proceedings, you must have a lawyer. If you haven’t found a suitable lawyer yourself, the court will have to appoint a lawyer for you – and the State will pay the costs of the lawyer. For more information see Link opens in new windowGetting legal advice.

Do I have to testify?

During the trial, you do not have to speak or answer any questions – or you may answer just some of the questions. You have the right rather than a duty to give explanations about the circumstances of the case. You have the right to give explanations not only about the circumstances of the case, but also about the petitions submitted by the other participants in the trial.

You do not have to testify against yourself. If you testify about the crime which you are charged with, you cannot be punished for not telling the truth.

Can I challenge the evidence that is produced against me and produce new evidence?

A court trial is an adversarial process. You have the same rights as the prosecution to produce evidence during the trial, submit requests, participate in the examination of the evidence, challenge the arguments of the other party and express your opinion about all of the questions which might arise in the trial and could be significant for a fair resolution of the case.

You have the right to put proposals to the court about how the case should be resolved, criticise proposals made by the prosecution, produce additional evidence to the court or request the court to obtain evidence from other organisations, ask questions of the participants in the proceedings and witnesses, make requests for any officials to be removed from the proceedings, appeal against the decisions of the court, and so on.

You will be able to ask questions and challenge the evidence during the court hearing. You, or your lawyer, may also question the witnesses during the trial.

You can request the court to call all the witnesses you want. When you make the request, you must indicate why the witness's statement could be important for the case. You may also supply any things or documents which might be important for the investigation and examination of the crime.

You can ask a private detective to obtain evidence on your behalf. This sort of evidence does not have any special status and must comply with the normal rules of procedure.

Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?

Your criminal record will be taken into account when the decision is made. Your previous convictions may help the court to form an opinion about your personality. This information will be used when a decision is made about a measure of remand or when imposing a penalty.

If you have previous convictions which have not expired, the court may impose a more serious sentence on you than if you had no previous convictions.

Previous convictions in a foreign State will not be taken into account. In Lithuania, a person is considered as having a criminal record only if the judgment was made by a court of the Republic of Lithuania and it was enforced.

What happens at the end of the trial?

A trial ends when the court passes a judgment by which you can be found guilty, not guilty, or the case can be dismissed.

If you are convicted, one of the following penalties may be applied:

  • imprisonment – a custodial sentence served in approved places like houses of correction or prisons. The maximum period of imprisonment is 20 years or for life;
  • arrest – a short-term imprisonment served in a short-term detention facility. The maximum length of arrest is 90 days;
  • restriction of liberty – during the period for which your liberty is restricted, you will not be able to change your place of residence. The court may also order you not to visit certain places or communicate with certain persons. You may also be ordered to be at home at a certain time, to make compensation for damages or to comply with other similar requirements;
  • fine – a financial penalty, the amount of which is determined by the court;
  • community service order – you can only be required to undertake community service if you agree.

What is the role of the victim during the trial?

A victim has the right to demand that the person who committed the crime is identified and justly punished. A victim may participate actively in the process but is not required to do so. The victim can produce evidence, submit petitions, and so on. A victim may also demand compensation for the damage suffered.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure (in Lithuanian)

National Courts Administration

Last update: 18/02/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

4 - My rights after the court passes the judgment

Can I appeal against the court judgment?

You can appeal against the court judgment. You can challenge the conclusion that you were involved in the crime, the verdict about your guilt, the description of the crime, or the severity of the sentence.

If you are convicted or the case against you has been dismissed, you have the right to file an appeal against a judgment which has not yet come into effect on any basis. If you are acquitted, you may file an appeal against the reasons for the acquittal.

Who will hear my appeal?

An appeal will be heard by a regional court or the Lithuanian Court of Appeal. If the judgment in the case was passed by a district court, the appeal will be heard by a regional court. If the first judgment was passed by a regional court, your appeal will be heard by the Lithuanian Court of Appeal.

When do I have to file my appeal? Who to?

You have to file your appeal within 20 days from the day when the court announced the judgment. You have to file your appeal with the court that passed the judgment, and from there, it will be sent to the court of appeal.

In your appeal, you have to specify the name of the court of appeal, the case which you are appealing, the part of the judgment you are appealing against, the reasons for the appeal, and your requests.

What are the possible consequences of the appeal?

If you file an appeal, you will not have to start serving the sentence unless you yourself state in writing that you are willing to do so.

In order to ensure that you participate in the appeal proceedings, the court may order your arrest. If the court has ordered your arrest, you can file your appeal from the detention centre.

The appeal hearing will be set by the court of first instance after it receives all the relevant petitions and answers to them.

You may produce any additional material or additional evidence to the court of appeal.

How is an appeal heard?

Your case at the court of appeal will be heard by a panel of three judges.

In the court of appeal the case will be reviewed on the basis of the requests which are made in the petition for appeal. It will only be reviewed in relation to the people who filed the appeal or because of whom the appeal was filed. In some circumstances, the court can disregard this rule and expand the limits of review. However, the court of appeal can only impose a more severe penalty on you or the other people involved if the prosecutor, victim or certain other people ask for that to happen.

The hearing will generally be in public. But a trial may also be in private if the accused person is a minor, if the case is related to sexual offences, if it is important that information about the private life of the participants should not be made public, or it is necessary to protect a State, professional or commercial secret. The court must decide that the hearing will be in private.

During the hearing, the court will present all the information relating to the appeal. You will be allowed to submit requests or ask for officials to be removed from the proceedings. If necessary, the court of appeal may examine the evidence. The court may decide to do this or you, or other participants in the procedure, can ask the court to do this.

At the end of the process, the concluding arguments will be heard. After the arguments, you will be able to make your final statement.

What can a court of appeal instance decide?

After hearing a case, the court may pass a judgment or a ruling.

In its judgement, the court of appeal may decide:

  • to overturn your judgement of conviction and dismiss the case;
  • to change your sentence;
  • to overturn the judgement of the court of first instance by passing a new one.

There may be several kinds of rulings as well:

  • to reject your petition for appeal;
  • to overturn the judgement and dismiss the case against you;
  • to change your sentence;
  • to overturn the judgement and return the case to the court of first instance for re-trial;
  • to overturn the judgement and return the case to the prosecutor.

What will happen after the decision of the court of appeal?

If you have filed an appeal, the court judgment becomes effective from the day when the decision of the court of appeal is passed irrespective of whether your appeal is successful or not. The fact that the judgment becomes effective means that it will be presented for execution and executed.

Can I challenge the judgment of the court of appeal?

You may challenge the judgment of the appeal court under the procedure of cassation before the Supreme Court of Lithuania. At this stage, you can only challenge the judgment in respect of the issues which were considered before the court of appeal.

You can only appeal to the Supreme Court if the criminal law was not applied in the right way, or where there were essential violations of procedural laws.

A ruling passed by the Supreme Court of Lithuania is final. In certain cases, however, the Supreme Court may adopt a ruling to send your case back to the court of first instance for re-trial, or to hear the case again before the court of appeal.

If my appeal is successful, will a record be kept of my conviction?

If you are acquitted, you will not be considered as having a criminal record. In Lithuania, a person is considered as having a criminal record only if a judgment of their conviction made by a court of the Republic of Lithuania has become effective.

Will I get compensation for damage suffered because of a wrong decision?

If the conviction was unlawful, or you were detained or otherwise treated unlawfully, the State will compensate you. However, it is not automatically the case that you are entitled to compensation if your conviction has been overturned – the decisions taken and/or the conviction must have been unlawful. In order to get compensation, you will have to submit a claim within the civil procedure.

If I am from another State, can I be sent back there after the trial?

You may be transferred to another Member State to serve your sentence if that State has signed the Link opens in new windowConvention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

You will not be transferred automatically. You may submit a request to serve the remaining term of your sentence in another Member State, or the Lithuanian authorities or the other State may also make the request. You may ask to be transferred at any time during your sentence.

You may only be transferred to a State of which you are a citizen. The judgment passed against you has to be final, and there have to be at least six months left until the end of your sentence. The offence you have been punished for has also to be prohibited in the receiving Member State.

You can only be transferred if you, the Republic of Lithuania, and the receiving Member State agree. Your agreement is not necessary if the court orders you to be expelled from the State.

What information about my conviction will be added to my criminal record?

In Lithuania, a person is considered as having previous conviction if a judgement of conviction passed by a court of the Republic of Lithuania has become effective. If you have been acquitted, you will not be considered to have previous conviction.

Information about your previous conviction will be held at the Department of Information and Communication under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. How long previous convictions remain effective depends on the seriousness of the crime. If the sentence has been suspended, the previous conviction is effective only for the period of suspension. If you have been convicted of offences of negligence, the previous conviction will be effective only while you are serving the sentence. The longest period for a previous conviction to be effective is 10 years after the sentence has been served.

Information about your previous convictions can be held without your consent.

Information about your criminal record will be held even after the period of validity of previous conviction has expired. Such information may not have any effect on your legal status, but it might be taken into consideration as a character reference if you are a suspect or accused in the future.

Related links

Link opens in new windowCode of Criminal Procedure (in Lithuanian)

Last update: 18/02/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

5 - Traffic offences

How are traffic offences dealt with?

As a rule, traffic offences in Lithuania are not treated as crimes. They will only be treated as crimes if you cause an accident and injure another person. Such liability will also arise if you drive a car when drunk and cause an accident resulting in serious damage to the property of another person.

In other cases, traffic offences will be dealt with administratively. If you receive an administrative penalty, this information will not be included in your criminal record. If an administrative penalty has already been imposed on you, a police officer can take this into account when he decides on a new penalty.

It is normally the police who deal with traffic offences. If the violation is more serious, your case will be heard by the court.

You have the right to familiarise yourself with the material collected in the case, give explanations and testimony, and file petitions. You may also be represented by a lawyer in administrative cases.

You are entitled to speak in your native language, or the language you understand, or use the services of an interpreter if you do not speak Lithuanian.

What will happen if I am stopped by the police for a violation?

The police officers must introduce themselves when they stop you. If they believe that a breach of law has taken place, they will draw up a document setting out the details of the breach. You will be given a copy of the document. A decision on the fine to be imposed will be taken later at the police office or the court.

You may participate in the procedure when the decision is taken. If you do not participate, the decision will be taken in your absence.

If you do not dispute the circumstances of the violation of the traffic rules, and the fine imposed does not exceed 200 LTL, the document setting out the breach of the law might not be drawn up.

If you have parked your car in an unauthorized manner, you may find a notice on your car, advising you that you have broken the law. The notice will tell you when and where you must attend to deal with the breach. Officers may also put a wheel clamp on your vehicle in order to ensure that the breach is properly dealt with.

Sometimes the police may tow your car away if it is blocking vehicle or pedestrian access, or otherwise breaching other people's rights.

Can I make a complaint?

If you disagree with the decision taken by the police, you may challenge this decision within 10 days. You can appeal to the regional administrative court. If your case was decided by the court, you may make a complaint to the Supreme Administrative Court of the Republic of Lithuania.

What are the penalties for traffic offences?

The penalty for traffic offences is usually a fine. However, in certain circumstances, when the violations are serious, an administrative arrest may be imposed or your driving licence withdrawn. In rare cases, your vehicle may be confiscated. If the violations are insignificant, the police officer may give you a reprimand.

The penalty imposed depends on the nature of the violation. If you are convicted of drink driving (blood alcohol content over 0.41 per mille), you will receive a fine, and in all cases, your driving licence will be withdrawn. Your driving licence may also be withdrawn for exceeding the permitted speed limit by more than 50 km/h. The police officer will tell you the amount of the fine which is applicable to the violation committed. You can find a list of violations and penalties which attach to them on the website of the Link opens in new windowLithuanian Police Traffic Supervision Service.

Related links

Link opens in new windowLithuanian Police Traffic Supervision Service (in Lithuanian)

Link opens in new windowCode of Administrative Violations of Law (in Lithuanian)

Last update: 18/02/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница френски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Luxembourg

These information sheets explain what happens when someone is suspected or accused of an offence which is dealt with by means of a hearing before a court. For information on minor offences such as breaches of the Highway Code which are normally punishable by a fixed penalty such as a fine, see Link opens in new windowinformation sheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you will find full information about your rights here.

Summary of criminal proceedings

Below is a summary of the normal stages in criminal proceedings

  • The proceedings start with an offence being reported, a complaint being filed by a victim or a report of a crime or offence being made by the police
  • a preliminary investigation is ordered by the State Public Prosecutor
  • the police question suspects and may hold them for up to a maximum of 24 hours
  • if the State Public Prosecutor appoints an investigating judge, he decides whether to charge you, i.e. whether to officially accuse you of having committed an offence and then question you
  • the judge may have you arrested by the police and imprisoned: you have the right to ask the district Judges’ Council Chamber for your provisional release
  • the investigating judge investigates the incriminating and exculpatory aspects of the case
  • once he has finished, the investigating judge hands the file to the Prosecutor who recommends that you are either discharged (case closed without further action) or sent for trial before a court. You have the right to appeal against being committed for trial
  • you appear at the court hearings charged with criminal offences
  • a judgement acquits you or finds you guilty
  • you have the right to appeal and to be re-tried by the Court of Appeal

You will find details of all these stages in the proceedings and about your rights in the information sheets. This information cannot take the place of consulting a lawyer and is only intended for guidance purposes.

The role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission does not play any part in criminal proceedings within Member States and is unable to help you if you wish to make a complaint. These information sheets tell you how you can complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information you need.

Link opens in new window1 – Consulting a lawyer

Link opens in new window2 –  My rights during the enquiries

  • Questioning/preliminary investigation by the police
  • Arrest (including European arrest warrant)
  • Questioning by the investigating judge and being remanded in custody
  • Hearing by the Judges’ Council Chamber to decide whether to release you
  • Investigation of the case by the State Public Prosecutor / investigating judge and defence rights
  • Procedure for closing the investigations and committal for trial

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 – Breaches of the highway code and other minor offences

Last update: 05/04/2016

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Моля, имайте предвид, че оригиналната езикова версия на тази страница френски е била наскоро променена. Езиковата версия, която търсите, в момента се подготвя от нашите преводачи.

1 – Consulting a lawyer

It is very important to obtain independent advice from a lawyer when you are involved in any way in criminal proceedings. The information sheets tell you when and under what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you how the lawyer will help you. This general information sheet will show you how to find a lawyer and how the lawyer’s fees will be covered if you are unable to pay him.

How to find a lawyer

You have the absolute right to be assisted by a lawyer in all cases. You can either call upon the lawyer of your choice or contact the Link opens in new windowLuxembourg Bar to obtain the list of lawyers in order to choose one to your liking.

If you do not choose a lawyer or if the Chairman of the Bar Association [Bâtonnier de l’Ordre des Avocats] considers your choice to be inappropriate, it will be up to the Chairman to appoint him. The lawyer is obliged to accept the instruction given to him, unless he is unable to do so or has a conflict of interest.

If you have been detained, you may ask the investigating judge at the start of the proceedings to arrange for you to be assisted by a duty lawyer or by the lawyer of your choice.

How to pay a lawyer

Lawyers set their own fees. If you do not have sufficient income to pay a lawyer, you can request legal aid from the courts’ judicial information service.

A judicial information service exists in Luxembourg, Diekirch and Esch-sur-Alzette:

  • Luxembourg: Cité Judiciaire, Bâtiment CR, L-2080, Luxembourg, Tel : 22 18 46
  • Diekirch: at Aler Kiirch, B.P.66 L-9201 Diekirch, Tel: 80 23 15
  • Esch-sur-Alzette: place de la Résistance, L-4002 Esch/Alzette, Tel: 54 15 52

You are considered to be someone with inadequate resources if you do not have financial means in excess of the statutory guaranteed minimum.

Related links

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice – Legal aid

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice – Legal assistance

Last update: 05/04/2016

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

2 – My rights during the enquiries and investigation and before the matter is referred to the court

What are the stages in a criminal investigation?

The enquiries and criminal investigation are intended to gather evidence relating to a criminal offence which has been committed and to determine whether one or more suspects committed the said offence.

The State Public Prosecutor opens a preliminary investigation which is handed to the police, who question the potential perpetrators, gather evidence and describe the case in a report.

Once the enquiries have been completed, the State Public Prosecutor decides whether to close the file without any further action or to commit the accused for trial before a court.

Where a crime has been committed or in the case of complicated lesser offences, the State Public Prosecutor appoints an investigating judge, who gathers and checks the facts and circumstances for and against the accused. The judge charges any accused who appears to be involved in the case and may himself or via the police, carry out house searches, seize property or conduct other operations. He may decide to imprison any accused.

In the case of an investigation, at least in criminal matters, the judge reports on the case to the State Public Prosecutor. The latter decides either to close the file without any further action or to commit the accused for trial before a court. The Judges’ Council Chamber at the district court decides whether or not to follow the State Public Prosecutor’s submissions.

My rights during the enquiries and investigation

Questioning/preliminary enquiries by the police (1)

What happens during the preliminary enquiries?

Following a complaint by a victim or a report of a crime or offence by the police, the State Public Prosecutor directs the preliminary enquiries and tries to find out who committed the wrongdoing. He may hand the case to an investigating judge to gather information about any offence. In the case of crimes, the investigating judge must be brought in. Any witness may be heard. You may therefore be called to appear before the State Public Prosecutor, the police or the investigating judge to explain any part you may have played in the case.

What does being “charged” mean?

Your rights during the enquiries and investigation arise as soon as you are classified as “charged” by the investigating judge, i.e. accused of having committed an offence. However, you are considered to be innocent until such time as your guilt is proven and accepted by a court.

What will I be told about what is happening ?

You have the right to be informed about the nature of and reason for the accusation, i.e. about the facts of which you are accused and the legal basis. This right of information enables you to prepare your defence in the best possible way. The information must be comprehensible and complete and will be given to you either by the police officer, or by the investigating judge.

Will I have an interpreter to help me if I do not speak the language ?

If you do not speak one of the languages in use before the judicial authorities (police or investigating judge), an interpreter is used. He will translate all the questions for you and all your replies.

Arrest (including European arrest warrant) (2)

What happens in the case of a crime or offence discovered while or immediately after being committed?

In the case of a crime or offence discovered while or immediately after being committed, i.e. if an offence has just occurred, you may be arrested immediately by the police if you are suspected of having committed this offence. You may be held by the police for a maximum of 24 hours. Objects which may have been used to commit the offence may be seized. Your fingerprints may be taken, together with photos of you. A sample of your DNA may also be taken. You are then brought before an investigating judge.

When can I have access to a lawyer and how?

If you are held by the police for a crime or offence while or immediately after it is committed or are questioned by the investigating judge, the police officers or the investigating judge are obliged to advise you of your right to be assisted by a lawyer and will enable you to contact him so that he can help you. You are advised of this before they start questioning, in writing and in return for an acknowledgement from you in a language which you understand.

Can I contact a member of my family or a friend?

The police must inform you in writing, in return for an acknowledgement from you in a language which you understand, about your right to tell one person of your choice and you are given the use of a telephone. This may be a member of your family or a friend, unless this goes against the interests of the investigation.

Can I contact a doctor if I need one?

As soon as you are held, you are informed in writing, in return for an acknowledgement from you in a language which you understand, about your right to be examined by a doctor without delay. The State Public Prosecutor may also appoint a doctor to examine you, either on his own initiative or at the request of a member of your family.

Can I contact my ambassador if I am from another country?

You may contact one person of your choice, so this can be your country’s embassy if you so choose.

Can I be searched?

If, while you are being held, you are suspected of concealing objects useful to uncovering the truth or objects which could be dangerous for you or anyone else, you may be searched by a person of the same sex.

Can my home, office, car etc. be searched?

As part of preliminary enquiries, your property may only be searched if you have given your express, handwritten consent to such a search. In the case of a crime or offence discovered while or immediately after being committed, this consent is not necessary and the search may be conducted at any time of the day or night. Your car may also be searched if there are indications suggesting that you have committed a crime or offence.

In the course of an investigation, a search of your property can only be carried out between six thirty am and eight pm. You may obtain a copy of your documents which have been seized and ask for seized property to be returned to you. The State will return this property to you if it does not need it for investigating the truth or to safeguard the rights of the parties involved and if this return does not constitute any danger to persons or property. The return of property may be refused where confiscation is stipulated by law.

Will I be asked for DNA samples, digital fingerprints or other bodily fluids?

By order of the State Public Prosecutor or investigating judge and with your prior, written consent, a police officer may take cell samples from you in order to establish a DNA profile for comparison.

You may be compelled to allow cell samples to be taken from you if there appears to be a direct link between you and the carrying out of the acts in question and if these acts are punishable by a sentence of two years’ imprisonment or more.

You cannot be compelled to give a blood sample.

The State Public Prosecutor may order digital fingerprints to be taken if it appears that you have taken part in a crime or offence discovered while or immediately after being committed and during the preliminary investigations. These fingerprints may be used later by the Police for the prevention, research and discovery of criminal offences.

If digital fingerprints are absolutely essential for proving your identity, you may be asked to provide them as part of investigations for a crime or offence discovered while or immediately after it is committed or preliminary investigations or questioning or the execution of a search warrant issued by a court authority on the authorisation of the State Public Prosecutor or investigating judge. These fingerprints may be used later by the Police for the prevention, research and discovery of criminal offences unless you are not the subject of any police investigations or enforcement measures.

How can the investigating judge bring you in for questioning?

If you are free, the investigating judge may call you in by letter, i.e. by means of a summons. He simply gives you notice to attend on the date and time indicated and you are heard immediately by the investigating judge.

However, he may also have you sought by the police with a warrant to bring you in for questioning, where the investigating judge considers there to be a danger that you will abscond, that evidence will disappear or that you will not attend when requested. In the case of a crime, the danger of absconding is presumed if the act is punishable by law as a criminal offence.

An arrest warrant may be obtained if the accused is on the run or lives abroad and if the acts attributable to him render him liable to a custodial sentence.

If I come from another country, do I have to attend the investigations and can I take part by video?

You must be present at a hearing. The law does not allow you to attend by video.

Questioning by the investigating judge and remand in custody (3)

What is the purpose of questioning by the investigating judge?

The investigating judge confirms your identity a