Senate Draft Amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure

The Senate’s draft amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure makes it possible in a special case to extend the deadline for lodging appeals.

Amendment Code of Criminal Procedure – Senate Draft Amendment of the Act

On April 28, 2022, the Senate of the Republic of Poland passed a resolution to submit to the Sejm a draft law amending the Code of Criminal Procedure. Although the amendment to the legislation proposed by the Senate is modest, it is of fundamental importance for the profession in criminal matters. The current rules of criminal procedure, in contrast to civil procedure, provide for only one time limit for lodging an appeal in a criminal case, which pursuant to Art. 445 § 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is 14 days and runs from the date of issue of the copy of the judgment together with the motivation. The amendment proposed by the Senate allows – in a special case – to extend this period to 30 days. This special case is a situation in which, pursuant to Art. 423 § 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the president of the court may extend the time limit for preparing the reasons for the judgment in the case of a complicated case or for any other important reason.

The Senate’s proposal touches on a fundamental issue from the point of view of ensuring the defendant’s right of defense, which is a fundamental procedural guarantee that stems not only from Art. 6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, but especially of Art. 42 seconds. 2 of the Polish Constitution. The possibility of lodging an appeal is also a guarantee of the right to hear a case in two procedures, which derives from Art. 78 of the Polish Constitution.

Longer term to appeal?

The proposed amendment to the law concerns the extension of the time limit for lodging an appeal in a situation where the judgment subject to a judgment concerns a complex case or where the period of 14 days for preparing a statement of reasons has been extended for another important reason. As a rule, as is apparent from art. 423 § 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a judge has 14 days to prepare a justification of the verdict in the case he is investigating. For obvious reasons, it is not always possible at the moment to prepare such a justification, because criminal cases receive cases of varying complexity, but also of different length. Situations related to both issues may provide the basis for extending the time limit for the registrar to prepare the justification of the judgment. The complexity of the case can be due to various reasons, such as the complex issue that is the subject of the discharge (for example in cases related to stock market or financial crimes), the multiplicity of perpetrators or accusations, divergent opinions of experts or teams of experts or even scientific institutes, but also because of the need to appoint experts from different specialties (for example in the fields of forensics, orthopedics, traumatology, psychiatry and psychology in one case). Each of these circumstances obviously affects the “convenience” of drawing up the reasons for the judgment. Nevertheless, cases heard by the criminal court often contain dozens or even several hundred volumes (exceptionally even several thousand volumes, as in the famous Amber Gold case). In such cases, there is no doubt that the time limit for the preparation of the reasons for the judgment by the court registrar should be extended. Irrespective of such an extension of the preparation of the statement of reasons for the judgment, the period for lodging an appeal against the judgment by a defense counsel, public prosecutor or assistant public prosecutor is not, in view of the current legal situation, extended . Therefore, the Senate of the Republic of Poland has rightly noted the need to change the provisions, especially since the more complex or elaborate the case, the longer and more detailed the justification of the court.

Against the background of the current provisions (Article 445 § 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure), regardless of the degree of complexity or length of the case and regardless of the time spent by the judge in preparing the statement of reasons for the judgment, the appeal must be drafted and submitted within 14 days of the statement of reasons. From the point of view of the defendant’s procedural guarantees, this period may – in specific cases – be too short and lead to a violation of the defendant’s right of defense. A proper appeal in a criminal case should not be reduced to a cursory assessment of the sentence merely through the prism of the sentence imposed on the accused, but must indicate precisely the errors the court of first instance committed by the latter in pronouncing the sentence. punishment. In particular, this requires a rigorous analysis of the court’s assessment of evidence, in particular with regard to the assessment of witness statements, but also assessments of, for example, divergent expert opinions, where the arguments raised by the court are confronted with the evidence collected, which points to inaccuracies or faulty assessments by the court and authority. In the case of a justification of several hundred pages, its complete and correct analysis within the legal period of 14 days is difficult (if not impossible), which can consequently affect the content of the appeal, and thus the actual implementation of the right of the defendant to defend.

The Senate’s proposal, which is a consequence of the Ombudsman’s position, should therefore undoubtedly receive a positive assessment and it is hoped that it will be further approved in the course of the legislative process (the Senate’s draft is currently submitted for an opinion from the Legislative Bureau and the Parliamentary Inquiry). Extending the deadline for lodging appeals, in particularly justified cases, will lead to a more complete guarantee of the defendant’s right of defense, thereby also increasing citizens’ confidence in the justice system. The principle of speed of proceedings, which is apparent in criminal proceedings due to the specific gravity of the cases under investigation, should not take precedence over the principle of a fair trial and the defendant’s right of defense. At the same time, the extension of the appeal period in some criminal only cases will not significantly affect the length of these proceedings, especially since in complex and comprehensive cases such proceedings lasting years will not be affected in any way if the time limit for lodging an appeal is extended by 14 days.

Incidentally, it should be noted that in civil proceedings, in which cases of a different gravity are dealt with, however, in case of extension of the time limit for the preparation of the judgment (Art. 329 § 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure), the time limit is extended from two to three weeks for lodging a notice of appeal (Art. 369 § 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure), so that nothing stands in the way of extending the deadline for bringing criminal appeals in certain cases.

Author: Jacek Jaruchowski, Attorney

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