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Austria Table of Contents


Criminal Court Proceedings

Persons suspected of committing a crime can be held in investigative or pretrial detention for no more than forty-eight hours. Persons held on charges of "aggressive behavior" can be held for up to seven days before appearing before a magistrate. With the agreement of a magistrate, an accused may be held for up to a maximum of two years pending completion of an investigation. Domestic critics of the provisions concerning pretrial detention have pointed out that of those detained in Vienna, only 57 percent were eventually found guilty of crimes justifying prison sentences. The basis for investigative detention is set forth in law, as are conditions for release on bail.

Criminal offenses are categorized either as crimes--those cases in which the possible sentence is from three years to life imprisonment--or misdemeanors, covering all other cases. Misdemeanor cases for which the jail sentence cannot exceed six months are heard by one judge in district courts. Cases where the possible sentence is no more than three years (five years for burglaries) are heard in courts of first instance before one judge; if the punishment is in excess of three years, the case is heard before two judges and two lay assessors. Assize courts consist of three judges and eight lay assessors and hear cases where the potential sentence is of five years to life imprisonment. They also rule on such special crimes as high treason.

Members of the judiciary are appointed for life and are independent of the other branches of government. Trials are open to the public. The accused are provided with a written statement of the charges against them and have the right to be represented by counsel.

Data as of December 1993