Italian law provides several alternative procedures to an ordinary trial. Three of them allow to avoid the trial, so the Judge’s decision is founded on evidence in the file of the Public Prosecutor (abbreviated trial, plea bargain, proceeding by decree).

The other two come directly to trial, jumping the previous phases: the preliminary hearing (immediate trial) or the preliminary investigation and the preliminary hearing (summary trial).

  1. Summary judgement: in the preliminary hearing or in the conversion of another special procedure, the accused can always ask the judge to be judged on the basis of the evidence gathered during the preliminary phase, renouncing the trial. If convicted, he receives a penalty reduced to one third. The court is bound to accept this request and the public prosecutor must accept and respect it.


  1. Plea bargaining: this is an agreement between the accused and the Prosecutor on the extent of the penalty to be applied and, implicitly, on the affirmation of guilt. It also may be requested either in the preliminary hearing or upon conversion of another special proceeding. This proceeding allows you to take advantage of a discount of up to one-third of the original penalty. In proceedings not preceded by preliminary hearing the plea bargain may be required prior to the opening statement of the trial. The agreement must be presented to the Judge who can accept or reject it. If the Judge accepts the agreement, the judgment becomes final rapidly. Otherwise the decision can only be challenged in the Supreme Court.
  1. Summary trial: as the immediate trial, it skips the preliminary hearing, but this depends entirely on the initiative of the Public Prosecutor in case of evidence of proof. This special procedure can be used when the accused was arrested in the act of committing an offence or made a confession and moreover, in other cases, specifically provided by law, including crimes relating to weapons or explosives and those related to the violence at sporting events. The defendant may request instead of this proceeding, to proceed with the forms of abbreviated trial or a plea bargaining.
  1. Immediate judgment: it skips the preliminary hearing and the trial comes quickly, to the request of the Prosecutor or the accused. The accused may ask for it after the notification of preliminary hearing or after notification of the penalty notice (see below). The Public Prosecutor may ask for it when the evidence is clear and the suspect was heard or did not appear despite the summons to be interrogated, or he is in precautionary custody. Condition for the Prosecutor to formulate his request, is that the review procedure (art. 309 c.p.p.) has been completed. If the Judge admits the immediate judgment on the request of the Prosecutor, the accused – within fifteen days – may ask for the abbreviated trial or plea bargaining.
  2. Proceeding by decree: this is a simplified procedure which ends with a conviction issued by the Judge for preliminary investigations at the request of the Public Prosecutor, without the defendant’s intervention. It must be proceedings involving crimes that can be prosecuted “ex officio” (Latin expression which means without a party’s request) and punishable by a penalty. The defendant may object to the decree of condemnation within fifteen days of its receipt and may request to proceed with the ordinary trial or request the abbreviated trial or a plea bargain or offering the payment of a sum to obtain the extinction of the crime. In this case, the Judge will withdraw the decree. The decree includes a number of incentives: a reduced sentence, the absence of additional penalties and costs of procedure, the extinction of the crime after a certain time, the lack of efficacy in proceedings other than criminal.