Defendants (criminal proceedings)

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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 Factsheet 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 http://158.167.220.151:8180/ejusticeportal/beta/169/MT/defendants_criminal_proceedings?CZECH_REPUBLIC&action=maximizeMS&clang=en&idSubpage=2&member=1#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 http://158.167.220.151:8180/ejusticeportal/beta/169/MT/defendants_criminal_proceedings?CZECH_REPUBLIC&action=maximizeMS&clang=en&idSubpage=2&member=1#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 Factsheet 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 http://158.167.220.151:8180/ejusticeportal/beta/169/MT/defendants_criminal_proceedings?CZECH_REPUBLIC&action=maximizeMS&clang=en&idSubpage=2&member=1#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).http://158.167.220.151:8180/ejusticeportal/beta/169/MT/defendants_criminal_proceedings?CZECH_REPUBLIC&action=maximizeMS&clang=en&idSubpage=2&member=1#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

Criminal Procedure Code

Ministry of Justice

Legal information for all

Criminal Code

Act No. 273/2008 on Police of the Czech Republic

Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24.4.1963

Act No. 101/2000 Coll. on Personal Data Protection

Last update: 03/07/2019

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.

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