3 - My rights during the trial
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If information gathered in evidence against you during the investigation provides grounds for your case to be brought to court, the prosecutor will file an indictment with the court, unless he or she decides otherwise.
Which court will hear my case?
The main trial is held at a district court. In complex cases (e.g. the defendants are high officials, or it is a case involving corruption, criminal or terrorist groups, etc.,), the case will be heard by the Specialized Criminal Court. For more details, click here. Cases in Slovakia are decided by a single judge or a senate of 3 judges, depending on the gravity of the crime.
What is the preliminary hearing?
The court will review the indictment to see whether the evidence was gathered in accordance with law, whether you would agree with a plea bargain, and so forth. You can present more evidence and, if you are in custody, ask to be released. If serious flaws are ascertained by the court, the indictment will be returned to the prosecutor. Otherwise, the court will set the hearing date, close the criminal prosecution, approve conciliation, or order other steps.
Will the trial be in public?
Cases are heard in public. The public can be excluded from a hearing if their presence would be a threat to bank or telecommunication secrecy, public order, identity of an agent, or similar reasons. You and your lawyer cannot be excluded from a hearing. The judge can expel you from the hearing room, if you are disturbing court decorum. The judgement is always announced in public.
Can the charges be changed during the trial?
The prosecutor cannot change the charges against you after your case is in court. The court may only rule on the offence described in the indictment. Your deed can be determined to be a different criminal offence than the one originally decided by the prosecutor. If so, you must be informed about this and have at least 5 days available for the preparation of your defence.
What happens if I plead guilty?
You have the right to plead “guilty” or “not guilty”. If you plead guilty, the court will only examine evidence needed to decide on punishment and/or compensation for damages.
What are my rights during the trial?
You have the right (not the duty) to be present at the trial. The court may hear the case-in-principle without your presence if you so agree, or if you refuse to be present, or on other grounds as defined by the law. The same applies to the process of appeals. You also have the right to an interpreter, to a lawyer, to give testimony or “not to testify”; you may also lie. If you are a foreign national, you do not have the right to give testimony or appear in the trial via a video link. This right is granted only to a witness and/or a defendant whose is threatened.
What are my rights in relation to evidence against me?
The investigation bodies must secure evidence and/or produce it at the court. You have the right to do the same. You may use the services of a private investigator. If the court releases you, you are entitled to reimbursement of the costs related to the private investigator. The court only examines evidence gathered in accordance with law.
During the trial, the defendant, witnesses, and experts are questioned by the prosecutor. You (or your attorney) can also ask questions. Your witnesses are questioned by you. You can raise objections about how the questioning is conducted such as the admissibility of the questions or their answers. You have the right to challenge all evidence such as evidence provided by witnesses, experts’ opinions, physical and documentary evidence, and sound recordings.
Do I have a right to make a final statement?
Once the court ends the examination of evidence, you can make your final statement. After the prosecutor’s final statement, the court gives the opportunity for the victim or your lawyer to speak. Your statement is the last one to be heard. You can challenge the indictment, the evidence, and the offence charged against you, offer mitigating circumstances, question the sentence, and so forth. The court may interrupt your final statement only if you make statements not related to your case. You also have the right to make a closing statement during which you must not be interrupted.
What are the possible outcomes of the trial?
The court will either find you “guilty” or “not guilty”, or relieve you of the charges.
The court will free you of the charges set out in the indictment if:
- the crime did not happen;
- if it was not proven that the crime was committed by you;
- if your conduct was not a criminal offence;
- or if the case is time-barred.
If the court finds you guilty, it will decide on the sentence and/or the duty to compensate the injured party for damages.
The court may also decide to do otherwise, similar to the procedure applied by the prosecutor when closing an investigation.
What are possible sentences?
- Imprisonment – according to gravity of the crime but at most life imprisonment. The death penalty cannot be applied. If you are sentenced to 2 and/or 3 years the court can order probation with a probation supervisor and it will set a period from 1 to 5 years during which you must lead a law-abiding life. If you break these terms, you must start serving your prison sentence.
- Home confinement – up to 1 year for a minor offence. You are required to restrict your movements to your place of residence and lead a law-abiding life. Should you breach these conditions, you must start serving your prison sentence.
- Community work – from 40 to 300 hours for a minor offence, only if you agree. You must engage in community work with no compensation.
- Fine, forfeiture of assets or items for intentional criminal offences through which you have gained property or caused significant damage. A fine can be from €160 to €331 930. Asset forfeiture applies to all those assets which you acquired unlawfully. Forfeiture of items can be applied if you used the item to commit the crime.
- Disqualification - from 1 to 10 years - a ban restricting your engagement in a certain type of activity, such as your profession or other activity such as driving a vehicle.
- Ban on your locale – forbidding you to stay at a certain place, from 1 to 5 years.
- Expatriation from the territory of the Slovak Republic. You can be punished by 1 to 15 years of expulsion, but only if you are not a Slovak citizen, or a citizen of any other EU member state, or a citizen of a signatory state to the Agreement on the European Economic Area, or if you have not been granted asylum. You cannot be expatriated to a country where your personal freedom or life would be under threat on the grounds of race, nationality, religion, political affiliation, or similar reasons. For more details, click here.
What are the rights of the victim during the trial?
A victim can:
- request the court to award compensation for damages;
- present and produce evidence, and access the case file;
- be present at the trial (including any appeals);
- ask questions of the defendant(s), witnesses, experts;
- challenge the evidence;
- give a final statement;
- make an appeal, and so forth.
Will information about my criminal record be taken into consideration?
For more information, click here.
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Last update: 18/05/2020