During preliminary investigations, the judicial police and the prosecutor carry out a detailed investigation into the alleged crime. The Public Prosecutor has a maximum of six months to a year (depending on the nature of the crime) to perform a systematic examination of the person who may have committed the crime and the interrogation of witnesses.
The duration of the preliminary investigations depends on their complexity, therefore the deadline for completing the surveys can vary between six and eighteen months and, in very complex cases, 2 years. Only the judge can allow to extend the deadline.
Preliminary investigations may involve inspections, searches, seizures, monitoring of conversations or communications, gathering of evidence, identification of defendants, summary report on the person against whom the investigation is conducted, other summary information from persons who may report useful circumstances for the purpose of the investigation and other similar procedures.
The investigation is private and can not be disclosed.
During this period the suspect can be held in prison, or partially lose his personal freedom, if there are serious indications against him (Article 272 of the Italian Criminal Code) and at least one of the three precautionary requirements provided for by the art. 274 c.p.p.
In this regard, we are talking about some “provisional measures”, before the adoption of any “precautionary measures”, which can actually be applied by the judge for preliminary investigations. The first of them is called on-the-spot arrest, in Italian “arresto in flagranza”, which refers to cases when one is caught in an intentional, consummated or attempted crime.
Apart from the cases of “flagrante delicto”, while an investigation is pending, the Judicial Police can also order the confinement (in Italian: “fermo di indiziato di delitto”: art 384 c.p.p.) of a person, when there are sufficient reasons to believe that the perpetrator might flee. Nevertheless, it must be a more serious offense, for which the law calls for a penalty of life imprisonment or imprisonment of no less than two years, or more than six years, or an offence involving weapons of war and explosives. The fundamentals of confinement are because of urgency, it is not possible to wait for action from the Public Prosecutor.
Preliminary investigations end with the request for archiving or the initiation of a criminal action (Article 405 of the Italian Criminal Code). In this second case, a trial begins against a person accused of committing the crime. If the defendant does not choose any special procedure, he goes to court to face the charges or, if he prefers, can remain silent or choose not to appear in court. In this case he is represented by his lawyer.
According to the art. 415 bis c.p.p., the Public Prosecutor, before concluding the preliminary investigations, must notify the person accused of committing a crime and also his attorney, a notice containing a declaration of the alleged offense, the information that the documents were filed in the secretary of the prosecution and an option for the same suspect to exercise, if he likes – within twenty days – some of his rights: ask to be interviewed, submit statements and documents, ask the prosecutor for further investigation.