The nation's criminal justice officials follows
procedures in dealing with offenders. Once a suspect is
national or prefectural police, the case is turned over to
attorneys in the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, who
government's sole agents in prosecuting lawbreakers.
the Ministry of Justice's administration, these officials
under Supreme Court rules and are career civil servants
who can be
removed from office only for incompetence or impropriety.
Prosecutors presented the government's case before judges
Supreme Court and the four types of lower courts: high
district courts, summary courts, and family courts. Penal
probation officials administer programs for convicted
under the direction of public prosecutors
(see The Judicial System
, ch. 6).
After identifying a suspect, police have the authority
exercise some discretion in determining the next step. If,
pertaining to theft, the amount is small or already
offense petty, the victim unwilling to press charges, the
accidental, or the likelihood of a repetition not great,
can either drop the case or turn it over to a prosecutor.
Reflecting the belief that appropriate remedies are
found outside the formal criminal justice mechanisms, in
70 percent of criminal cases were not sent to the
Police also exercise wide discretion in matters
juveniles. Police are instructed by law to identify and
minors who appear likely to commit crimes, and they can
juvenile offenders and nonoffenders alike to child
to be treated on an outpatient basis. Police can also
juveniles or those considered to be harming the welfare of
juveniles to special family courts. These courts were
in 1949 in the belief that the adjustment of a family's
is sometimes required to protect children and prevent
delinquency. Family courts are run in closed sessions, try
offenders under special laws, and operate extensive
guidance programs. The cases of young people between the
fourteen and twenty can, at the judgment of police, be
sent to the
public prosecutor for possible trial as adults before a
the general criminal law.
Safeguards protect the suspects' rights. Police have to
warrants to search for or seize evidence. A warrant is
necessary for an arrest, although if the crime is very
the perpetrator likely to flee, it can be obtained
after arrest. Within forty-eight hours after placing a
under detention, the police have to present their case
prosecutor, who is then required to apprise the accused of
charges and of the right to counsel. Within another
hours, the prosecutor has to go before a judge and present
to obtain a detention order. Suspects can be held for ten
(extensions were granted in special cases), pending an
investigation and a decision whether or not to prosecute.
1980s, some suspects were reported to have been mistreated
this detention to exact a confession.
Prosecution can be denied on the grounds of
evidence or on the prosecutor's judgment. Under Article
248 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure, after weighing the offender's
character, and environment, the circumstances and gravity
crime, and the accused's rehabilitative potential, public
does not have to be instituted, but can be denied or
ultimately dropped after a probationary period. Because
investigation and disposition of a case can occur behind
doors and the identity of an accused person who is not
is rarely made public, an offender can successfully
and be rehabilitated under probationary status without the
of a criminal conviction.
Institutional safeguards check the prosecutors'
powers not to prosecute. Lay committees are established in
conjunction with branch courts to hold inquests on a
decisions. These committees meet four times yearly and can
that a case be reinvestigated and prosecuted. Victims or
parties can also appeal a decision not to prosecute.
Most offenses are tried first in district courts before
three judges, depending on the severity of the case.
protected from self-incrimination, forced confession, and
unrestricted admission of hearsay evidence. In addition,
have the right to counsel, public trial, and
Trial by jury was authorized by the 1923 Jury Law but was
in 1943. It had not been reinstated as of 1993, chiefly
defendants' distrust of jurors, who were believed to be
and easily influenced, and the generally greater public
in the competence of judges.
The judge conducts the trial and is authorized to
witnesses, independently call for evidence, decide guilt,
a sentence. The judge can also suspend any sentence or
convicted party on probation. Should a judgment of not
rendered, the accused is entitled to compensation by the
based on the number of days spent in detention.
Criminal cases from summary courts, family courts, and
courts can be appealed to the high courts by both the
and the defense. Criminal appeal to the Supreme Court is
constitutional questions and a conflict of precedent
Supreme Court and high courts.
The criminal code sets minimum and maximum sentences
offenses to allow for the varying circumstances of each
criminal. Penalties range from fines and short-term
to compulsory labor and the death penalty. Heavier
meted out to repeat offenders. Capital punishment consist
by hanging and can be imposed on those convicted of
insurrection, inducing or aiding foreign armed aggression,
Data as of January 1994