Criminal proceedings

Trial proceedings



Guilt and sentence imposition are decided solely by the court during the trial. Proceedings take place within the trial, which is usually public. In the trial the prepared evidence is performed. Following the evidence performance, the court gives the floor for closing arguments – the defendant has the right of the last word. The court will then reach the final judgement.

If necesarry, an appeal can be lodged against the verdict. If the appeal is lodged in time, the judgment does not become final and the sentence is not enforceable. In the event of an appeal, the outcome of the case is decided by the Court of Appeal, which can overturn the decision of the court of first instance. If the appeal is unsuccessful, there are also extraordinary appeals.

However, the outcome of the trial does not have to be only a conviction or acquittal. Even during the proceedings before the court, the case can be resolved in an alternative way, i.e. by one of the so-called deflections. In addition, there are other means of resolution. For example, the court may refer the case back to the public prosecutor for further investigation or refer it to another authority. This occurs, for example, if the act in question is "only" an administrative offense.

What can happen to you in court proceedings?

Preliminary hearing of the indictment

The preliminary hearing of the indictment is preceded by a mandatory examination of the indictment's content and the case file's content. The court must perform both these actions by its own motion without impetus from the criminal proceedings parties.

The primary purpose of the indictment examination is to assess whether there is sufficient evidence from the pre-trial criminal proceedings to begin the trial. If there is not sufficient evidence, the court shall consider whether to hear the evidence in the preliminary hearing of the indictment.

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to ascertain not only the sufficiency of the evidence seized by the criminal proceedings authorities, but also to assess any procedural defects which cannot be remedied in the trial itself.

Following the preliminary hearing of the indictment, the court may return the case to the public prosecutor for a more profound investigation, or may decide on one of the deflections (a conditional discontinuation of the prosecution, a settlement), or decide to discontinue the prosecution.

The preliminary hearing of the indictment is thus one of the possible procedural opportunities to be exploited, as it can lead to success in the case.

Preparation for the trial 

If the court orders the trial, the public prosecutor, the legal guardian, the defendant's attorney, the aggrieved party, and the person concerned shall be notified of the trial hearing.

Five days after the summons delivery, the trial may occur. This due period is the 'preparation period' for the trial hearing, five days being the minimum period before the trial hearing. This period may be shortened only upon the defendant's consent or at the defendant's request to perform the trial hearing.

Within the trial, a copy of the indictment shall be delivered to the defendant so that he may comment on it. A detailed knowledge of the text of the indictment allows the attorney to refine the tactics of the defence, in particular to determine the correctness of the legal assessment of the committed deed and the strength of the prosecution's evidence. Morevover, the persons to whom the copy of the indictment has been delivered are summoned to, in a timley manner, announce to the court their intrent to collect further evidence. These persons include the defendant, the legal guardian, the aggrieved party, or another person from whom the property has been seized and who differs from the defendant.

Trial hearing

This is the most important part of the criminal proceedings, as it is here that the guilt and punishment of the defendant is decided. The parties involved in the criminal proceedings are entitled to exercise their rights before the court, thereby substantially influencing the court's decision.

As a rule, the trial hearing is held in public, except for juvenile proceedings or other proceedings involving classified information protected by a special law, or for reasons of morality, such as the undisturbed conduct of the proceedings, and/or for the safety or other interests of witnesses.

Criminal order

If the evidence is sufficient to prove that the accused committed the crime, the matter is decided by a single judge in summary pre-trial proceedings. In this situation, the judge may issue a criminal order for the crimes punishable by the following possible sentences:

- a prison sentence for a term of up to one year with a conditional suspension of its

execution

- house arrest;

- community service;

- financial penalty;

- prohibition of activity for up to five years;

- confiscation of property and/or other assets;

- prohibition of stay for up to five years;

- banishment for up to five years;

- prohibition from sporting , cultural, and other social events for up to five years.

The dissent against the criminal order is due within eight days of its delivery. If the dissent is issued, the case is then decided in the "standard" way, i.e. in trial hearing.

To decide the case by issuing a criminal order may be easier and less stressful for the accused than deciding the case in the trial. It should be stressed, however, that if the accused does not lodge a dissent against the issued criminal order, he/she waives his/her right to a further defense. Therefore, upon the issuance of a criminal order, it is advisable for the accused to consult a defense attorney. A good, informed decision can be made only after careful consideration of the collected evidence and the proposed sentence -- whether to accept the suggested sentence or to defend the accused.

Evidence

Bringing up the evidence is another key stage that pervades essentially every phase of the criminal proceedings. Upon the bringing up the evidence, or the proofs, it is decided whether the factual findings are sufficiently probative, i.e. it is assessed whether the proofs confirm the factual findings beyond reasonable doubt of the court.

Among the means of proofs belong: the interrogation of the accused, interrogation of witnesses, expert assessments, documents and other physical evidence, inspection of the place, identification by recognition, confrontation, investigative experiment, and others.

It should be noted evidence is either direct or indirect. Direct evidence directly confirms the alleged fact of the crime, while the indirect evidence indirectly clarifies the alleged fact and is relevant predominantly when conjucted with other evidence.

Objections to the protocol content

During the collection of evidence, the criminal proceedings authorities may perform a given act, e.g. investigation, interrogation, etc., in a manner that violates the law, or is illegal. Criminal proceedings authorities have the duty to record the performance of such acts.

It is possible to object to the illegal acts of the criminal procedings authorities, or to the content of the protocol which the authorities must record upon performance of the relevant actions. Lodging an objection is a possible defense against the actions of the authorities.

It is also important to verify the protocol content that is recorded during the trial hearing. If the content of the trial (the trial hearing) was not correctly recorded in the protocol, or if important facts were described differently than they were recorded to the accused's detriment, the attorney shoud require that the deficiencies in the protocol are corrected (e.g. according to the hearing records).

Decision

The trial concludes with the court's decision regarding the committed crime described in the indictment. The court's decision must be grounded solely on the proven facts brought in the trial hearing. However, the decision is not always a judgment based on merits. If the results of the trial hearing indicate a substantial change of circumstances occured, or if the defendant has committed yet another crime, the court may retrun the matter to the public prosecutor for more profound investigation. Furthermore, the court shall not decide on the merits, if the court finds that it has a lack of jurisdiction to decide on the matter, it can forward the matter to a competent authority, e.g. a higher court. The court may also the criminal proceedings discontinue (even conditionally only) or suspend them.

If the situation explained above does not occur, the court shall make a judgment: either convict the defendant as guilty (and usually impose the appropriate sentence) or acquit the defendant.

Appeal

An appeal is the ordinary remedy against a non-final judgment of the first court. Lodging an appeal has suspensive effect, which means the enforceability of the sentence is postponed. For this to occur, the appeal must be lodged by relevant person within a timely manner, i.e. within the due time for appeal.

Along with complaints, appeals are the most frequent remedies applied in criminal proceedings. Within the appeal, a wide range of arguments can be raised arising from procedural defects in the trial hearing such as erroneous legal assessment or insufficient proof that the accused committed the crime.