Unification of Criminal Procedure Law

The draft bills for a Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure (Strafprozessordnung, StPO) and for a Swiss Code of Juvenile Criminal Procedure (Jugendstrafprozessordnung, JStPO), of 21 December 2005, replace Switzerland's 26 cantonal codes of criminal procedure, as well as the corresponding regulations at federal level. As a result, in the future, not only will criminal offences be defined in a standard way in the Swiss Penal Code (Strafgesetzbuch), but they will also be prosecuted and judged according to the same procedural rules. Abolishing the cantons' differing regulations in favour of nationwide legislation improves the equality of laws as well as legal certainty. It also permits crime to be combated more effectively. Furthermore, a standard procedural code benefits lawyers and makes it easier for prosecuting authorities to deploy staff across cantonal borders. It will also facilitate better international cooperation.

The two bills draw on existing codes of procedure where the latter have proven their worth. However, they also provide for new regulations previously found in only a few cantons, if at all in Switzerland. These include the extension of the principle of discretionary prosecution, which allows prosecuting authorities to refrain from prosecution in certain cases. They also provide for agreements between perpetrator and victim in the form of a settlement or mediation, as well as plea bargaining between those charged with criminal offences and the public prosecutor's office. Additional changes include greater rights of defence, the extension of certain victims' rights, broader witness protection and the monitoring of bank accounts as a new coercive measure. All in all, the two bills represent a balanced solution aimed at bringing about a fair equilibrium between the conflicting interests involved in criminal proceedings.

As in the past, the structure of the courts essentially remains a matter for the cantons. The standard code of procedure nonetheless specifically demands a standard model for case prosecution. Characteristic of the future model of public prosecution is the absence of an investigating magistrate. The public prosecutor's office will lead preliminary proceedings, conduct the examination, bring charges and represent its case before the courts. The standard approach to investigation, inquiry and bringing charges will create a highly efficient prosecution system.

Another particular feature is that the strong position of the public prosecutor's office is balanced by a court dealing specifically with coercive measures, as well as by greater rights of defence. The principle of directness is also intended as a further counterweight: Essentially, the court will form its opinion on the basis of its own observations in the primary hearing, although in certain cases it is also able to refer to the evidence collected in preliminary proceedings (principle of indirectness).

Criminal procedure as it applies to juveniles is governed by its own law, which contains provisions that differ from those of the StPO. As in other areas, where the administration of justice relating to juvenile crime is concerned, all stages of the prosecution process are entrusted to a specialist judicial authority. The special judge assigned to juvenile cases is the ruling body in cases of minor and moderate gravity, and will also monitor the execution of sanctions. In – rare – serious cases, legal judgment is passed by the juvenile court.

Further information

Note

For the complete documentation see the pages in German, French or Italian.

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