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Civic Action In Criminal Proceedings

The Criminal Procedure Code provides for those who have suffered criminal damages to seek redress in the course of the criminal proceedings and not only before the civil court. This is possible since every crime can be defined as a tort – impermissible damage posing a high degree of social danger, and the civil law stipulates that everyone is obligated to remedy the damage resulting from their culpable behavior towards another person. The joint hearing of the civic suit does not change the character of the criminal process; the unsettled issues under such a case are governed by the Code of Civil Procedure. A Civic Action in the Criminal Proceedings may be filed by natural persons, their heirs and the legal entities, provided they have suffered criminal damages and no claim for compensation has been brought before the Civil Court in this connection. The action can be brought by the prosecutor if the aggrieved person is under-age or suffers from physical or mental disorders and hence cannot defend themselves.

The bodies of the pre-trial proceedings are obligated to explain to the person who has suffered criminal damage their right to claim damages and the aggrieved is given the opportunity to take action in this regard before the proceedings have reached a trial phase. They have the right to compensation under a future action at a court competent to hear the case at first instance. The Civic Action is filed with a request which may be oral or in written form. The deadline for filing is until the beginning of the court investigation at the first instance court. The claimant does not owe a State fee. The fee is determined by the court with a ruling and provided the claim is honoured, the fee will be paid by the convicted person. It is obligatory that the convicted pay the compensation for the damage caused. The burden of proof of the suffered damages rests with the claimant who must also prove that said damages are a proximate consequence of the crime. In certain cases compensation may be sought not only from the perpetrator, but also from third parties who bear the objective responsibility under the law for the perpetrator’s actions, e.g. the parents of an under-aged, or the employer, etc. These are involved in the litigation as civil defendants. If the court approves the civic action in the criminal proceedings, the aggrieved person becomes a civil claimant – a party involved in the lawsuit. As such they have certain rights – to present evidence, to claim damages should they have failed to file such a claim before the beginning of the trial phase, and also to appeal all decisions of the court which infringe their rights and lawful interests. The possibility for the aggrieved person to seek compensation for suffered criminal damages is intended as mitigation of the aggrieved person’s unfavorable position. Nevertheless, the hearing of the civic suit must not excessively delay the criminal proceedings, and this is why the court is given the freedom to refuse to accept a civic action or to even separate an already accepted one from the criminal case. For the same reason – if the court terminates the proceedings, then it has no obligation to pronounce a judgment on the claim for damages. The court may acquit the defendant, but sentence them to pay the damages. Such is the case when the charge is for premeditated crime and the defendant has acted carelessly. Since such behavior is still considered guilty, the acquitted will be obligated to remedy the damage inflicted. The opposite is also possible – the court may declare the defendant guilty, but consider the civic action as unjustified; for example, if not the claimant but another person has suffered damages, or if no connection has been proven between the actions of the defendant and the inflicted damages.

A civic action cannot be filed in the course of a summary process nor if the criminal liability is discharged with an imposed administrative sanction. Speed is of primary concern in such proceedings and as mentioned earlier the examination of the claim for damages cannot be a reason to delay the case. The connection between the criminal and the civil proceedings can be found in another direction as well: the persons who have suffered criminal damages should be able to seek remedy with an easier/ simpler procedure. In case the aggrieved person decides to seek defense before the Civil Court, the absolute verdict of the Criminal Court will have obligatory force with respect to the question as to whether an act has been or has not been performed, the nature of the performed action – legal or illegal, and if illegal – whether the actor is guilty. The claimant of criminal damages, whose court verdict has come into effect, is released from any fees and expenses. One advantage of hearing civic suits in criminal proceedings is the more liberal procedure of proof, and secondly, a big part of that is conducted by the state prosecutor. In that combination the claimant has enough rights to participate actively in the defense of their harmed interests. The disadvantages are related largely to the usually long duration of the criminal proceedings and to the smaller compensations that criminal courts award in practice.