Nature of criminal proceedings | In Principle

Go to content
Subscribe to newsletter
In principle newsletter subscription form

Nature of criminal proceedings

Criminal law is divided into substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, and criminal enforcement.

Substantive criminal law is the set of laws governing criminal responsibility for acts prohibited under threat of punishment. It focuses on concepts such as crime, punishment, guilt, prohibited acts, and circumstances excluding criminal responsibility. Substantive criminal law contains a catalogue of prohibited acts that constitute a crime and legal consequences in the form of punishment, penal measures, compensatory measures and forfeiture which can be applied as a result of criminal offences.

The primary sources of substantive criminal law are the Criminal Code of 6 June 1997 and Title I of the Fiscal Penal Code of 10 September 1999.

Criminal procedure is a set of rules through which the substantive criminal law is applied. Criminal procedure governs the rules for legal proceedings and shapes the rights and responsibilities of the authorities, the parties, and the other participants in the proceedings, and also determines the shape of the criminal proceedings. The main purpose of criminal procedure is to determine whether a criminal offence has been committed, determine the perpetrator, and prosecute that person.

The primary sources of criminal procedure law are the Criminal Procedure Code of 6 June 1997 and Title II of the Fiscal Penal Code of 10 September 1999.

Criminal cases are examined by the common courts (criminal divisions) or the military courts (crimes and fiscal offences allegedly committed by members of the armed forces on active duty or military employees).

Criminal enforcement is a set of rules for enforcement of rulings issued in criminal proceedings and fiscal penal proceedings, penalties for breach of order, and sentences of deprivation of liberty. Criminal enforcement governs such areas as execution proceedings and review of the legality and correctness of performance of sanctions.

The main sources of criminal enforcement law are the Criminal Enforcement Code of 6 June 1997 and Title III of the Fiscal Penal Code of 10 September 1999.

Who conducts criminal proceedings?

Criminal proceedings are conducted at the stage of preparatory proceedings and court proceedings.

Preparatory proceedings are conducted mainly by the Police and the prosecutor.

Police powers are also vested in bodies of the Border Guard, the Internal Security Agency, the National Treasury Administration, the Central Anticorruption Bureau, and the Military Police, within the scope of their jurisdiction.

Fiscal penal proceedings are also conducted by fiscal investigative bodies (the head of the tax office, the head of the customs and treasury office, the head of the National Treasury Administration) and non-fiscal investigative bodies (the Border Guard, the Police, the Internal Security Agency, the Military Police, the Central Anticorruption Bureau).

The prosecutor plays several roles in criminal procedure. He is an investigative authority, conducting and overseeing preparatory proceedings. In court proceedings he acts as the accuser and is a party to the proceedings.

The prosecutor’s office is an institution with a hierarchical structure. Prosecutors are independent but must comply with orders, guidelines and instructions from their superiors.

The Police primarily conduct inquiries, as well as all or part of investigations commissioned by the prosecutor, or specific investigative activities.

At the request of the prosecutor and the court, the Police also perform technical activities: bringing in suspects, accused persons and witnesses.

The Police are responsible for making arrests, examining witnesses, conducting searches, and the like.

Fiscal investigative authorities handle preliminary proceedings for fiscal crimes and fiscal petty offences. Different fiscal investigative authorities conduct preliminary proceedings within the scope of their competence. A fiscal investigative authority will lead the investigation in matters involving fiscal crimes if it is not led by the prosecutor. In certain instances, fiscal investigative authorities may seek approval from the court for voluntary submission to criminal responsibility, which takes the place of an indictment.

Non-fiscal investigative authorities handle preliminary proceedings for fiscal crimes and fiscal petty offences. Different non-fiscal investigative authorities conduct preliminary proceedings within the scope of their competence.

Who participates in criminal proceedings?

The participants in criminal proceedings, depending on the phase, can play a variety of roles; the most important are mentioned below. The authorities that conduct criminal proceedings (at the stage of the investigation, the Police, the prosecutor’s office, fiscal investigative authorities and non-fiscal investigative authorities, and in judicial proceedings the court) make the principal decisions, particularly as to the course of the proceedings, the participants, and the like.

In court proceedings, the prosecutor becomes the accuser. In cases involving fiscal offences, the financial investigative authorities also exercise the rights of a public accuser. Otherwise, the most important participants in criminal proceedings are the victim, the suspect and the accused.