Juicios rápidos (fast trials) are proceedings that seek to accelerate the judicial process and work of the courts in certain types of criminal proceedings, in certain specific circumstances.
A fast trial (juicio rápido) can be completed in only a few hours in special courts known as ‘Juzgados de Guardia’ (Police Courts), which are a form of Magistrates’ Court (Juzgado de Instrucción). The Public Prosecutor speaks first with both lawyers trying to reach an agreement between the parties, the victim and the accused.
The agreement can be reached if the defense pleads guilty, confirming the facts are true and accepting the penalty requested by the public or/and private prosecutors in which case the Judge would proceed to issue a Judgment in the terms of the agreement. The case is then finished and the decision cannot be appealed. This agreement has one important advantage, the accused will see the penalty reduced by one-third (ie any fines or prison time decreed are reduced by one-third), also the costs of the proceedings are reduced, as the lawyer doesn’t have to make verbal or written submissions to court, a procurador is not needed and everything is finalised in a few hours.
The most common JUICIOS RAPIDOS are those secondary to domestic or gender violence or driving under the influence of alcohol or without a driving license, but also it can be others (assaults, coercion, threats…)
If, on the contrary, the accused doesn’t acknowledge the facts, the proceedings will transform into PROCEDIMIENTO ABREVIADO (abbreviated procedure). It is also possible – in certain circumstances – that the criminal proceedings begin with this procedure.
A Procedimiento Abreviado is a longer and more complex set of proceedings. It can take at least one year, usually more.
The proceedings start in the Court in charge of the investigation of the crimes or Magistrates’ Court (Juzgado de Instrucción). Both parties, victim and accused, will go to Court to present their statements (defence and prosecution). Then the Court will carry-out the investigation and the parties will present the evidence they wish.
After the investigation stage is completed, if the Magistrates’ Court (Juzgado de Instrucción) decide that it seems clear that a crime has been committed, the file is passed to a higher court (Juzgado de lo Penal) then the public prosecutor, the victim and the accused will prepare a submission to the Juzgado de lo Penal. These submissions must be signed by a procurador and a lawyer.
From this point on, a procurador is required by law to be present for the accused and also for the victim, should the victim want to be represented in the proceedings by a lawyer; if not, the public prosecutors will act as the lawyer for the victim.
After that, the particular court that receives the file sets a day for the trial. During the trial any public prosecutor or private accuser, along with the accused, must appear in person before the judge in a formal court and lawyers will have to prepare submissions taking into account the evidence and the jurisprudence, and also question the victim, the accused and other witnesses or experts.
At any time, before the trial the accused can make an agreement with the public prosecutor. Any such agreement should be accepted by the victim. The agreement can be reached if the defence pleads guilty, confirming the facts are true and accepting the penalty requested by the public prosecutor. If an agreement is reached the Judge would proceed to issue a Judgment in terms of the agreement, then the case is completed and the decision cannot be appealed.
In both types of proceedings – JUICIO RAPIDO AND PROCEDIMIENTO ABREVIADO it is compulsory for the accused to have a lawyer. Should the accused not name a lawyer and a procurador, the court will ask to the local Law Society to name a lawyer and a procurador to represent them.