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Italian Criminal Law

The Italian Criminal Law is governed by the Italian Penal Code (Codice Penale) and by the special legislation for the regulation of each single type of crime and by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Codice di Procedura Civile) governing investigations into crimes, arrest, imputation, the trial of the accused, etc. until the final decision (absolution or sentence).

In criminal procedure there are two basic principles of law:
1) ignorance of the law cannot be an excuse for not respecting the law;
2) all the accused can be convicted only if there is certainty, beyond reasonable doubt, that they committed the crime with which they are charged.

A distinction is made with reference to the nature of the offender:

  • Natural person (Individual): Personal Offences (including Personal Injury); Property Offences; Fiscal Crimes; and Cyber Crimes;
  • Legal Persons (Corporate): Corporate criminal liability includes Environmental Crimes, Financial Crimes and the so called White Collar Crimes, Legislative Decree n. 231/2001 (providing for the direct liability of legal entities, companies and associations for certain crimes committed by their representatives).

The criminal procedure begins when a criminal offence is reported (in Italian “notizia di reato“) to the prosecutor by the Judicial Police (Polizia Giudiziaria) or by any other means (citizens, press).

In Italy the duration of the criminal proceedings depends on several factors and cannot be calculated exactly. The average duration of proceedings for the first instance is approximately between four and five years. Sometimes the length of court proceedings for all three sets of proceedings is more than seven years (four years for the first instance, two years for the second instance and one year at least for the Supreme Court), so that a lot of trials end up with a dismissal of the case as the penalty becomes time-barred.

To know more about each phase of the Italian criminal proceeding, please a look at our Criminal proceeding phases Guide.

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