Defendants (criminal proceedings)

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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

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