Stages of Criminal Proceedings PDF Print E-mail


 Stages of criminal proceedings


Code of Criminal Procedure distinguishes five stages of criminal proceedings. 


Stages of Criminal Proceedings


Pre-trial proceedings – Preliminary hearing of indictment – Main trial – Appeal (remedial) proceedings – Execution proceedings



Pre-trial proceedings


This is the first stage of criminal proceedings. The objective of this stage is to ascertain, whether the suspicion of a committing a crime by a certain person is sufficiently substantiated in order to file an indictment to court. In this stage it is necessary to find and obtain evidence proving the guilt of the accused person, as well as other evidence disproving his guilt. The outcome of the whole criminal proceedings depends on correct execution of pre-trial proceedings. There is a new option to negotiate an agreement on the guilt and punishment in this stage between the accused person and public prosecutor. 


Tasks in pre-trial proceedings:


- to secure the groundwork basis for the decision, whether to file an indictment and let the court deal with the case or to waive further criminal prosecution of the person concerned,

- to ascertain all circumstances important for deciding on the criminal offense, its perpetrator, punishment and protective measure, as well as deciding on the claim of the aggrieved person for compensation of damage, and to secure the necessary evidence,

- to uncover the causes of criminal activity and circumstances that allowed or facilitated commission thereof.


The objective of pre-trial proceedings is to clarify the matters of fact indicating that a crime has been committed. In this stage of proceedings, the public prosecutor plays an important part, since he performs supervision over the activity of Police authorities and decides on filing an indictment to the court.



Preliminary hearing of indictment


Preliminary hearing of indictment is a trial stage of criminal proceedings that follows filing an indictment, motion for punishment or petition for approving an agreement on the guilt and punishment. This is not a mandatory stage of criminal proceedings, criminal cases do not always have to go through this stage.


The objective of this trial stage of proceedings is that court could assess, whether the indictment (or motion for punishment or petition for approving an agreement on the guilt and punishment) filed by the public prosecutor provides a reliable basis for further proceeding, whether the pre-trial proceeding was conducted in compliance with the law and whether its outcome sufficiently justifies putting the accused person on trial.


In the course of preliminary hearing of indictment the court decides whether to order main trial or not (e.g. the court may remit the case to the public prosecutor for additional investigation or terminate criminal prosecution of the person).


The objective of this trial stage of proceedings is to prevent hearing unsubstantiated indictments in public main trial.



Main trial


Main trial is the most important stage of criminal proceedings. This is a mandatory stage, in which a decision on the guilt and punishment of the defendant is made. The court reviews the charges contained in the indictment or in motion for punishment, obtain evidence proposed in the indictment and secure their producing, always in the attendance of the public and other entities on criminal proceedings that have influence on the course of the tried case.


Decision in main trial is made by the court – either a judicial panel or sole judge. The court is independent in its decision-making and is bound only by the law. The public prosecutor who filed the indictment to the court is in the position of a procedural party to the proceedings in the main trial and also in the course of the whole trial proceedings. The right of the defendant for defense is also fully guaranteed in trial proceedings, and it is realized either by the defendant himself or through his defense counsel. Participation of the defense counsel is necessary in cases of so called mandatory defense counseling.


The main trial is conducted in constant presence of all members of the judicial panel, a record clerk and the public prosecutor. Presence of the defendant is generally also necessary. In the absence of the defendant the main trial may be conducted only in exceptional cases under the conditions provided for by the law.


In the main trial the court may decide only on the act referred to in the proposal of the indictment filed against a certain person by the public prosecutor. However, the court may qualify the act differently than the indictment (e.g. an act assessed by the prosecution as bodily harm may be qualified by the court as attempted murder). There are certain specifics of the proceedings on approving an agreement on the guilt and punishment, where the position of the court is limited – simply put – to either approve or disapprove it.


The main trial is generally concluded by announcement of the judgment, which either finds the defendant guilty (condemning judgment) or acquits him of the charges (acquitting judgment). However, the main trial may also be concluded in a different way, e.g. by discontinuation or suspension of criminal prosecution or by referring the case to a different authority.



Appeal (remedial) proceedings


This proceeding is conducted in case the judgment of the court of the first instance is contested by an appeal, which may be filed by the defendant, the public prosecutor and other entitled persons. By filing an appeal the criminal proceedings come to the next stage.


The decision on an appeal against a District Court judgment is made by the superior Regional Court. The decision on an appeal against a Regional Court judgment is made by the superior High Court. The court will decide on an appeal in such a way that it either grants or dismisses it. The court, to which the case was remitted for new hearing and decision, is bound by the legal opinion formulated by the appeal court in its decision.


The objective of appeal proceedings is to review the contested decision itself and the proceedings that preceded it in the basis of the filed remedial measure according to its nature, both from the factual and the legal point of view.


The Criminal Procedure Code distinguishes regular and extraordinary remedial measures. Regular remedial measures are complaint and appeal, which are directed against decisions that have not yet become final and effective; complaints are directed against resolutions and appeals against judgments. A specific remedial measure against a criminal order is protest. Extraordinary legal remedies are extraordinary appeal, complaint against the breach of law and new trial, and these are always directed against final and effective decisions.


The trial stage of proceedings follows pre-trial proceedings in situations, where the public prosecutor files an indictment (or a motion for punishment or petition for approving an agreement on the guilt and punishment), which must be dealt with by the court. The most important questions, i.e. questions of guilt and punishment, are decided in trial stage of proceedings, and also the previously issued decisions of court are being reviewed in this stage. 


Execution proceedings


The final stage of execution proceedings is execution proceeding. Its purpose is to realize the contents of decisions issued by authorities involved in criminal proceedings (e.g. execution of a judgment imposing an unsuspended sentence of imprisonment).


Upon the full force and effect of a condemning judgment the proceedings come into the final stage – execution proceedings. The decisions are executed, or the execution is ordered by the authority that made and issued the decision.


In trial proceedings a decision made by a panel is executed or its execution is ordered by the presiding judge.


A criminal case does not necessarily have to go through all stages of criminal proceedings. E.g. preliminary hearing of indictment does not need to be ordered in a specific case, where the statutory conditions are not met. The case may be decided as soon as in pre-trial proceedings, thus the main trial will not be conducted at all. Similarly, a decision in the favor of the defendant may be rendered in appeal proceedings, thus there will be no reason to conduct execution proceedings, because no sentence was imposed by the judgment.

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