Criminal Court Proceedings
Persons suspected of committing a crime can be held in
investigative or pretrial detention for no more than forty-eight
hours. Persons held on charges of "aggressive behavior" can be
held for up to seven days before appearing before a magistrate.
With the agreement of a magistrate, an accused may be held for up
to a maximum of two years pending completion of an investigation.
Domestic critics of the provisions concerning pretrial detention
have pointed out that of those detained in Vienna, only 57
percent were eventually found guilty of crimes justifying prison
sentences. The basis for investigative detention is set forth in
law, as are conditions for release on bail.
Criminal offenses are categorized either as crimes--those
cases in which the possible sentence is from three years to life
imprisonment--or misdemeanors, covering all other cases.
Misdemeanor cases for which the jail sentence cannot exceed six
months are heard by one judge in district courts. Cases where the
possible sentence is no more than three years (five years for
burglaries) are heard in courts of first instance before one
judge; if the punishment is in excess of three years, the case is
heard before two judges and two lay assessors. Assize courts
consist of three judges and eight lay assessors and hear cases
where the potential sentence is of five years to life
imprisonment. They also rule on such special crimes as high
Members of the judiciary are appointed for life and are
independent of the other branches of government. Trials are open
to the public. The accused are provided with a written statement
of the charges against them and have the right to be represented
Data as of December 1993