What are criminal cases?
Criminal cases are lawsuits by which the State prosecutes a person or organization for the violation of a penal law.
What is a crime? What is an offense?
A crime is an act or omission that constitutes a defiance of penal laws which warrants prosecution by the state, as well as punishment.
What are penal laws?
A penal law is that which identifies which acts or omissions are considered as crimes or offenses. There must thus be a specific provision in a Penal Code or Special Penal Law that defines and punishes the act or omission before one is considered to have committed a crime. Even if an act is socially or morally wrong, no criminal liability is incurred by a person or organization until that act is classified as a crime under law.
When one is being prosecuted for a crime, it is the State which is actually suing the offending party, and not the private injured party. This is because crimes are considered offensive to the peace and order of the country. The private injured party becomes a witness for the State.
General Overview – Criminal Prosecution in Thailand
Criminal Prosecution in Thailand covers all stages from the moment of the commission of the crime or offense, until a sentence on the accused is finalized.
In Thailand, prosecution for criminal law is the responsibility of several government organizations: the Royal Thai Police, Office of the Attorney General, the Courts of Justice, and some other offices from the Executive Branch of Government.
Aggrieved parties commonly go to the Police to make a report of a criminal incident. The Police then proceed to investigate the alleged crime and reports its findings before the Office of the Prosecutor. The Office of the Prosecutor, on the other hand, files the appropriate criminal case in Court.
The overwhelming number of criminal reports has resulted in delays in investigations and prosecution. As a solution to this, private citizens have been allowed to hire lawyers who will directly file the criminal case in courts, instead of taking the police reporting route. While this is a more expedient choice, the private party of course bears the consequence of paying for the costs of the private case filing.
Only judges decide criminal cases in Thailand. The jury system does not apply in this jurisdiction. Generally, if one is tried in criminal or provincial courts, he is tried by at least two judges. A single judge, however, may preside over preliminary procedures.
As everywhere else, the court must find proof beyond reasonable doubt before it convicts an accused of the crime he is being tried of.
Criminal Jurisdiction and Venue
Jurisdiction is the power of the court to hear and decide cases. This is directed by law and cannot be waived by the parties. On the other hand, venue is the place of trial or geographical location in which an action or proceeding should be brought. Unlike jurisdiction, venue may be changed by the written agreement of the parties.
Generally, criminal cases are considered territorial, meaning they should be tried in the place where the offence was committed. However, the Criminal Procedure Code of Thailand allows for other rules on where criminal cases may be filed. The other possibilities include:
- Where the accused resides;
- Where the accused was arrested;
- Where the inquiry is conducted;
- If more than one of the above options are applicable, where the case is first tried;
- If there are multiple offenses or offenders, in the place where the offender/s committed the crime which merits the highest penalty.