These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected of or accused of a crime which is dealt with by a trial in court. For information on minor offences like road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Factsheet 5.
If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.
Summary of the criminal process
The following is a summary of the normal stages in the criminal process.
- A crime is reported to the police;
- The criminal investigation (preliminary investigation) is carried out by the police; in the case of more serious crimes the investigation is led by the prosecutor;
- There is a possibility in the majority of cases of getting a public defence counsel;
- In the case of more serious or repeated crimes the prosecutor may ask the court for you to be held in detention. A special detention hearing will then take place;
- The prosecutor brings a prosecution in the district court;
- The district court holds a trial (main hearing) to examine whether it is proven that you have committed the crime and, if so, to decide on sanctions etc;
- If an appeal is lodged by any of the parties, the Court of Appeal examines whether the district court’s judgment should be confirmed or changed;
- In a few cases the judgment can also be reviewed by the Supreme Court;
- The judgment becomes legally enforceable, that is to say final, and the sentence will be enforced if there has been a conviction.
Details about all of these stages in the process and about your rights can be found in the factsheets. This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only. If you need assistance, always check with a lawyer or other expert to establish what applies in your particular situation.
Role of the European Commission
Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.
Click on the links below to find the information that you need
- continuing police investigation
- preparation of the case by the defence
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Last update: 12/11/2015