The Adjudication of Criminal Cases in Simplified Procedure – Constitutional
On 9 March 2017, the Constitutional Court of Moldova ruled on an exception of unconstitutionality of Article 3641 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Circumstances of the case
The case originated in an exception of unconstitutionality of Article 3641 of the Code of Criminal Procedure raised by Maxim Ciudin – a litigant in the casefile no. 1-565/16, pending before the Court of Chișinău, Rîșcani District.
The author of the exception of unconstitutionality alleged that Article 3641 of the Code of Criminal Procedure governing the adjudication based on evidence adduced within the stage of criminal investigation is in breach of Articles 1.3, 4, 7, 15, 16, 20 and 54 of the Constitution.
The complaint was examined by the Court in the following composition:
Mr Alexandru TĂNASE, President,
Mr Aurel BĂIEŞU,
Mr Igor DOLEA,
Mr Tudor PANȚÎRU,
Mr Victor POPA,
Mr Veaceslav ZAPOROJAN, judges.
Conclusions of the Court
Hearing the reasoning of the parties and examining the casefiles, the Court observed that Article 20 of the Constitution guarantees to any person the right to effective satisfaction by the competent courts of law against the acts infringing upon the rights, freedoms and his legit interests. Concurrently, in line with Article 115.4 of the Constitution, trial proceeding is regulated by organic law.
The Court found that in line with Article 3641 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the court of law may proceed to the adjudication of the case based on the evidence adduced at the stage of criminal investigation, in case the accused declares personally, by authentic text, that he admits committing the offences shown in the indictment.
At the same time, the court of law is under the duty to examine the case applying this procedure, only if: 1) there results from the adduced evidence that the offences committed by the accused were established and 2) there is sufficient data on this person which makes it possible for a sanction to be set.
Therefore, considering the effects of a summary trial procedure, the Court noted that the court of law may reject, based on objective and reasonable criteria, the request made by the accused; as regardless of whether one admits the charges, what prevails is existence of a fair trial, which does not happen insofar as there is denied the principle of seeking the truth.
Consequently, it is not the mere fact that the accused admits guilt as to the charge that is crucial in order for a fair trial to be carried out efficiently within the limits of legality and impartiality – it being a procedural condition – but finding the guilt of the accused on his charges from the indictment.
The Court mentioned that the examination of the criminal case in a summary procedure is a tool that provides the important advantage of celerity in solving the criminal case, when the accused admits entirely the charges from the indictment, and the court of law is in possession of sufficient evidence that would allow for the guilt to be found.
In its caselaw, the European Court of Human Rights held that when a criminal indictment against the accused is brought by a summary procedure, this leads, in essence, to waiving a number of procedural rights. This may not be an issue in itself, as neither the letter, nor the spirit of Article 6 of the Convention does not prevent a person from waiving these safeguards of his own free will. However, such a waiver must, if it is to be effective for Convention purposes, be established in an unequivocal manner and be attended by minimum safeguards commensurate with its importance and must not infringe upon any important public interest.
The Court noted that although criminal cases may also be examined in a summary procedure, this does not preclude ensuring certain safeguards to the victim, one of them being the recovery of prejudices made by the committed offence.
Thus, the challenged provisions provide expressly that in case the request is accepted, the judge explains to the victim the rights he enjoys when becoming a plaintiff; and in case the court of law does not solve the civil action within the criminal procedure, this does not impede the plaintiff to bring the civil action as a civil procedure.
Also, the victim may appeal when disagreeing with the sentence delivered by the court of first instance, following a summary procedure.
As with regards to author’s allegations that when applying Article 3641 of the Code of Criminal Procedure the punishment is diminished, the Court mentioned that in line with Article 72.3.n of the Constitution, the Parliament enjoys the exclusive competence to regulate by organic law the offences, punishment and the manner of its enforcement.
Referring to the critics on the infringement of Article 16 of the Constitution, in its caselaw, the Court held that the principle of equality in rights presumes establishing an equal treatment for situations where, depending of the goal pursued, are not different. Therefore, it does not preclude, but on the contrary, this presumes different solutions for different situations.
Consequently, the Court held that establishing special rules of procedure and applying them in cases when the accused admits the charges shown in the indictment and requests the court of law to proceed to a summary procedure, it is without prejudice to the essence of the right to free access to justice of the victim, this being in line with provisions of Article 20 in conjunction with Articles 16 and 54 of the Constitution.
Judgment of the Court
Stemming from the above reasoning, the Constitutional Court of Moldova rejected the exception of unconstitutionality and declared constitutional Article 3641 of the Code of Criminal Procedure no. 122-XV of 12 March 2003.
The Judgment of the Constitutional Court of Moldova is final, cannot be subject to any appeal, enters into force upon its delivery and is published in the Official Journal of Moldova.
This press-release is also available in Romanian language.