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Criminal proceedings

The determination of a defendant's guilt or innocence, and in the event of a conviction, the decision on punishment is left to the sole and independent discretion of the judge presiding over the trial. There is no jury system in Thailand.

 

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Trial Order

After the defendant has received a copy of the prosecutor's complaint, the judicial officer will informally inquire whether the defendant intends to plead guilty to the charges and whether the defendant requires an attorney. This will be reported to the court.

Sentencing is less than five years

Suppose the crime is punishable by a sentence of fewer than five years, and the defendant has notified the judicial officer that they intend to plead guilty to the charges and does not need an attorney. The court may accept the defendant's plea and enter judgment. Instantaneously, without the need to take any evidence.

Sentencing over five years

Where the minimum sentence for a given offense is five years or more, the court must hear the evidence and determine guilt before sentencing. This includes cases in which the defendant states that they do not need a lawyer and pleads guilty to the charge.

The penalty is the death penalty

In a capital case, the court must appoint counsel regardless of whether the defendant has requested court-appointed legal services.

Special Cases

In cases where the defendant denies the charge or pleads guilty to a crime with a minimum sentence of five years or more, the court shall schedule a meeting of the parties.

The prosecutor and counsel meeting

The state prosecutor and the defendant, along with the defendant's attorney, will meet to formally present the defendant's statement and learn about the witnesses each side intends to call and the evidence to be delivered. At this point, the witnesses' hearing dates are being set. The interval between the delivery of the defendant's copy of the criminal complaint and the parties' meeting could range from three to six weeks.

Presenting evidence in court

The oral testimony of witnesses is audio-recorded by the presiding judge and then transcribed by the trial clerk. In addition, the judge records a summary of the testimony given. A written statement issued by a witness in the form of an affidavit is hearsay. The trial court is the court of first instance in which all the evidence is presented.

Generally, witnesses will be heard on subsequent days until all the evidence has been heard. If the defendant is detained, the court will often try to schedule a hearing within six months of the parties' meeting.

However, if there are delays due to the recording of witnesses, the court may reschedule new dates. The time limit is not set by law. If the victim or aggrieved party cannot stay in Thailand until the trial date, the law allows the aggrieved party's testimony to be taken before the trial begins. Once all the evidence is presented, the court will set a date for the verdict to be announced.

This usually takes place two to four weeks after the last hearing date. The decision includes a summary of the complaint filed by the prosecutor, the defendant's statement, the evidence presented by the prosecutor and the defendant, the court's findings, and the verdict.

The court will impose a penalty or sentence if the defendant is found guilty. If convicted, if the sentence is less than three years and the defendant has not previously served time in prison for any crime (except for crimes of negligence or misdemeanors), the court has the discretion to suspend the custodial sentence.

The court has the discretion to suspend the sentence.

Appeal

Either party may appeal the trial court's decision to the court of appeals within one month of sentencing. The appellate court usually will not hear additional evidence but will base its findings and conclusions on the evidence presented at trial.

All legal arguments are presented in writing, and the problem is not conducted in public. The identity of the panel of judges is not disclosed, so the parties are not allowed to meet the judges. The procedure before the Court of Appeals can take anywhere from eight months to two years.

Once the Court of Appeals renders a decision, it will be placed in a sealed envelope to preserve confidentiality and sent with the case file to the trial court that initially heard the case.

When the trial court receives the sealed envelope containing the decision, it will set a date for the appellate court's decision to be announced. Notice is given to the prosecutor to attend the reading, not to the defendant or attorney. The court orders that the imprisoned defendant be brought before the court on the scheduled reading date.

Thus, the defense counsel generally needs to determine when the appellate court's decision has been read. The defendant must notify their attorney if a decision is made to appeal to the Supreme Court. An appeal of the appellate court's decision to the Supreme Court must be filed within one month after the appellate court's decision is read. The same appeal procedures apply to the Supreme Court process.

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Update: 12-02-2023
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