Greece is a member of the EU community, so it will not come as a surprise that the legal system concerning the penal Law is more or less similar to many other European countries (ex. Germany).
However, a foreigner getting arrested in Greece – or any other country that is not their homeland for that matter- is a scary and confusing situation.
As is expected, anyone in custody in Greece will undergo a series of procedures, bureaucratic at first, before they are led before Court, such as a preliminary examination, questioning by a Judge and the Advocates General etc. – procedures that are crucial to the outcome of the case and the resulting court order.
Due to the extensive Criminal Code (PDF link) Procedure that has to be followed, combined with a regrettably overloaded Court system, these procedures may take months to be completed, and then there is the long wait – sometimes even years – for the Court hearing to take place.
During this time, the defendant may be held in custody for up to 18 months. From the first day of custody, the defendant has of course certain rights, such as a right to contact and be represented by a lawyer of their choice, as well as an interpreter so as to be in full understanding of each procedure.
If not properly represented before the authorities, the defendant is at risk of waiting out the whole procedure in custody, away from home and loved ones, with no access to money or the many possibilities that Greece’s Criminal Code Procedure offers in favor to the defendant’s rights. In fact, it may be fair to say that without legal representation, a foreigner in custody in Greece is as good as having no rights at all.
Forced to remain in custody
Usually, the defendant will be forced either to stay arrested in Greece -in custody- until the hearing of their case, or to pay a substantial amount of money (bail) so they will be allowed to wait for their hearing out of custody, very commonly combined with a prohibition on leaving the country, which still presents a problem since the foreign defendant will be unable to return home or work and family until the court order.
What many do not know, is that our system allows for the defendant to petition for a release order until the court hearing, with the obligation that he/she will present themselves every week/month (depending on the order) at the Greek Embassy of their own country, thusly allowing them to return home safely and come back for their hearing when the time comes.
Of course, certain conditions must be met for the defendant to be entitled to such treatment, such as a known residence in their homeland, work or family obligations that the defendant may have etc., but it is certainly worth applying for, as in my experience, when presented properly, the Court grants such requests to foreigners with a solidly presented background.