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.
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.
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.
The sentence will not be reduced automatically.
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?
Will I have an interpreter if I do not understand the language of the court?
Do I have to have a lawyer ?
No, except in the assize court.
Will I be given a lawyer?
Yes, on certain conditions (see sheet 1).
Can I change lawyers?
Yes, even without giving a reason.
Can I speak at the trial?
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.
Can I contest the evidence submitted against me?
By asking the judge at the hearing to have further investigations carried out.
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?
Is such evidence acceptable?
Can I ask witnesses to speak in my favour?
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?
Will information about my criminal record be taken into account?
They enable the maximum sentence to be doubled and may prevent the application of measures in your favour.
Yes, they may be forwarded to the judge.
What are the possible outcomes of the trial?
In the event of a conviction, the judge has 5 options, depending on the nature of the offences and your criminal history:
The victim may speak on the facts relating to him/her and claim monetary compensation.
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.
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