Stages in Criminal Prosecution
Inquiry / Investigation
The Police makes an inquiry into the nature of the criminal complaint filed with them. In making inquiries, the police conducts interviews on individuals who may have information on the commission of the crime, as well as the alleged involvement of the suspects in the infraction.
The inquiring officer is mandated to make a recommendation whether they deem it proper to pursue prosecution or not. If the recommendation favors prosecution, the inquiry official must also bring the defendant to appear before the prosecutor.
Prosecutors begin their function after receiving the recommendation from the Police.
After receiving the police's recommendation, the Prosecutors prepare an indictment and sends copies of the same to the accused and/or his lawyer.
While the Office of the Attorney General is not mandated to initiate investigations on crimes, it may instruct the Inquiry Officials to conduct additional investigation if it deems the initial investigation to be incomplete.
Entry of Plea
Convinced of the presence of probable cause to hold the accused for prosecution, the Prosecutor brings to court the proper charges against the alleged criminal.
The accused, at this point, is given the chance to make a plea of guilt or innocence on the charges filed against him. The judge may make his own examination of the case, but usually just rules on whether the charge conforms to the law. If the judge approves of the charge, he sets a date for trial.
During trial, all the parties are given full opportunity to prove their case by presenting evidence to the court.
In the spirit of fairness, both parties are not only given ample opportunity to prepare their own evidence, but also to prepare for the evidence that the opponents may produce. Thus before the trial, both camps are required to submit to the court and the opposing party a list of evidence and names of their possible witnesses. This allows the prosecution and the defense to examine the evidence the other side claims to support its case at trial. The prosecution must submit the said list 15 days before the start of trial, while the defense is only asked to submit the list a day before the scheduled hearing.
The prosecution is first to present their case. A general statement of facts and law is introduced to establish the basis of their claim. Object evidence is presented and witnesses are called to prove the charges against the accused. The prosecution must be able to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the prosecution rests its case, the defense is given the chance to present their evidence in order to controvert the allegations of the opposing party.
Subject to the Rules on evidence, both parties are allowed to object to the introduction of evidence by their opponents. Cross examination of witnesses may also be made by both camps in an attempt to solidify their own assertions.
Generally, the judge has discretion to admit any evidence likely to prove the innocence or guilt of the accused. If the judge decides to exclude any of the evidence presented, he must provide a written explanation of this fact in the record of the trial. The explanation is required because it is used as basis for evaluation in case of an appeal.
The decision of the judge must be based solely on the evidence presented during the hearings, as well as confessions or admissions that qualify as valid under the law.
What evidence is admissible?
Any genuine physical evidence or true testimony of a witness is admissible if it is likely to prove the guilt or innocence of the accused. Also, any evidence obtained not in violation of the parties' rights is admissible in evidence. Statements coerced from the accused, as well as materials gathered during unauthorized searches cannot be admitted in court, as they are said to be "fruits from a poisonous tree."
Appeals to the Court of Appeals
The party who feels aggrieved by the trial court's decision may file an appeal within the period allowed for such.
A judgment or order of a Court of First instance may be appealed to the Appeals Court or the proper Regional Appeals Court.
An appeal must be taken within thirty (30) days from the date when the judgment to be appealed from has been deemed read to the convicted party. The lawyer of the appealing party must file the appeal document with the Court of First Instance that originally decided the case.
The Court of First Instance may allow the appeal. If it does not, it must issue an order denying the appeal, with accompanied by an explanation on why such appeal was denied.
In case of a denial, the appealing party must file with the same court a Motion opposing the denial. This must be filed within 15 days from the date of denial. The Court denying the appeal must then send the case file to the Appeals Court, which will decide whether to accept the case or affirm the decision of the Court of First Instance.
Appeals to the Dika Court
The Thai Dika Court is the highest court of the land. In western terms, it is the Supreme Court.
Generally, the criminal cases which may be appealed to the Dika Court are those decided by the Appeals Court or Regional Appeals Court. A Dika appeal is the last level of appeal available in Thailand.
The appealing party initiates a Dika appeal by filing an appeal with the court that originally decided the case within 30 days from the adjudication of the decision. The lower court has to decide whether the appeal should proceed or not. If proceeding with the appeal is the lower court's recommendation, the appeals documents are sent to the opposing party who is given the opportunity to reply within 15 days from receipt of such notice. After teh1 5-day notice period, the appeal is forwarded to the Dika Court. However, in case of a denial, the decision of denial is appealed to the Dika court within 15 days from such denial decision.
The filing and approval of an appeal by the lower court still does not guarantee that the appeal-proper shall proceed. The Dika Court exercises much discretion whether to allow the appeal or not. It may decline hearing the appeal if it deems the appeal to be insignificant. In such a case, it may simply confirm the decision handed down by the lower court/s. There are likewise technicalities on appeal which are taken into consideration before a Dika appeal is commenced. A good example is when the appeal being asked is obviously being undertaken to suspend execution of judgment.
The Dika Court uses as basis for its decision the case records from the lower courts. This is because the Dika Court is a trier on questions of law, and not questions of fact. Only in extreme circumstances are oral arguments required by the high court.
Decisions rendered by the Dika Court may wither affirm or reverse those made by the lower courts. A remand of the case to the lower court is likewise possible.
Appeals to the Dika Court may take years to finish. Once a decision is rendered, such is considered final and executory.