Course of criminal proceedings | In Principle

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Course of criminal proceedings

Criminal proceedings start with notification of a crime or may be commenced when information is obtained by the authority conducting the proceeding in some other way (for example from press reports).

Anyone who becomes aware of commission of an offence prosecuted publicly has a social duty to notify the prosecutor or the Police of the offence.

Notification may be made in writing, verbally, or by email or fax.

The record of interrogations does not include information about where the victims or witnesses live or work. This information is known only to the authority conducting the proceeding.

Written notification of a criminal offence should meet the requirements of a court pleading, i.e. it should include the notifier’s full name, address (and mailing address if different), date and signature. The notification must contain a description of the event and indicate the time and place of its occurrence. If possible, the particulars of people having knowledge of the event (their names and addresses) should be provided along with documents confirming the circumstances described in the notification.

One may also make an oral notification of an offence. Then the prosecutor or the Police will take down a record of the report. The record may include a request for prosecution. The Police or other law enforcement authority conducting the proceeding will verify the circumstances described.

Immediately after receiving notification of an offence, the authority responsible for investigating criminal offences is required to issue a decision on whether it will launch an investigation. The person or state, local governmental or social institution which filed the notification of a crime, as well as the identified victim, shall be notified of commencement, refusal to commence, or discontinuance of an inquiry or investigation, and a suspect shall also be notified of discontinuance—in each case instructing them of their rights. A decision refusing to commence an investigation can be appealed.

Criminal proceedings are divided into the following stages:

  • Preparatory proceedings (in the form of an inquiry and an investigation)
  • Main proceedings (before the court of first instance)
  • Appeal proceedings (interlocutory appeal or full appeal before the court of second instance)
  • Enforcement proceedings.

Preparatory proceedings

Preparatory proceedings are divided into two phases:

  • Proceedings in the case, when the law enforcement authorities try to determine whether an offence was committed and who committed it
  • Proceedings against a person, when the evidence makes it possible to charge a specific individual with commission of a prohibited act.

The parties to preparatory proceedings are the victim and the suspect.

Preparatory proceedings may take place in the form of an inquiry or an investigation. They are conducted by the prosecutor, and to the extent specified by law by the Police.

The procedure begins with notification of a crime (or as a result of information obtained in some other way by the authority conducting the proceeding) and usually ends with an indictment being brought to the court or a decision to discontinue the proceedings or refuse to initiate proceedings (in exceptional cases other decisions are also possible).

Court proceedings

Most court proceedings begin with an indictment being brought to the court.

The primary duty of the court is to determine the truth, and this is done by way of a trial where the accuser on one side and the accused (who may have defence counsel) on the other side present arguments for and against the allegations in the indictment.

Court proceedings are dynamic and consist of the entire set of procedural acts performed by the participants.

The most important part of this procedure is the main hearing when evidence is taken, for example from testimony of witnesses or expert opinions. The hearing ends with the court issuing a judgment.

The court may decide to acquit the accused, discontinue the proceedings, conditionally discontinue the proceedings, or convict the accused.


Criminal procedure provides legal measures to challenge decisions made during the trial, seek review by another authority, or deprive them of legal force.

Such measures include appeal, interlocutory appeal, and objection.

An appeal can be made against a non-final judgment of the first-instance court, whereas an interlocutory appeal serves to challenge certain court decisions and orders. It is also possible to file an objection to a decision, order, or injunction.

Cassation appeal and reopening of proceedings

Final judgments can also be challenged by extraordinary remedies, including among others a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court or a petition to reopen the proceedings.

A party may file a cassation appeal against a legally final judgment of the appellate court ending the proceedings or against a legally final order of the appellate court on discontinuance of the proceedings or application of preventive measures, for example committing the person to a secure psychiatric facility. The Minister of Justice, the Prosecutor General, and the Ombudsman are entitled to file a cassation appeal against any legally final ruling of a court ending the proceedings. The Children’s Advocate also has this right if the ruling violated the rights of a child.

Reopening of the proceedings is an instrument enabling legally final judicial proceedings to be reopened, for example if there was a crime committed in connection with the proceedings or if new facts or evidence emerges showing that the person convicted of an offence did not commit the offence.

Enforcement proceedings

This is the last stage of proceedings in a criminal case.

Enforcement proceedings fulfil two functions: enforcing a legally final conviction and eliminating or mitigating the legal consequences of a conviction.

These proceedings are governed by the Criminal Enforcement Code of 6 June 1997.

Enforcement proceedings also take place under the supervision of the court.