This article applies only to Iran.
Criminal laws are one of the branches of public laws which condemns and punishes any behavior that is against the law, norms, and morality in the society.
One of the subdivisions of criminal laws (criminal code) is the punishment and retribution considered for law breaking. Since the execution of these laws is restricted to the government, they are considered as a division of general rules and the punishment for them include fines, whipping, imprisonment and so on.
Criminal laws are usually related to the life, dignity and honor of people, either the injured (plaintiff, or private claimant) or the accused must be aware of the rights and responsibilities in order to defend themselves and prevent waste of their essential rights during all steps of the judicial procedure.
As mentioned, criminal cases are part of the criminal law which consist of crimes, punishments, rules and regulations. Criminal cases refer to the cases which are related to crimes, accused, culprit, private claimant, plaintiff, and the responsibility resulting from the crime. According to article 2 of the Islamic punishment law, any behavior including the doing or not doing of an act for which a punishment has been designated is considered a crime. The term ‘culpable’ refers to any person (real or legal) to whom committing the criminal act is attributed and this attribution has been acknowledged and proved in the court. In addition, the term “criminal liability” refers to attributing a criminal offense to the accused; in other words, committing a criminal act in entitled to bearing the punishment.
Forgivable and unforgivable crimes
Crimes are divided into two general categories of forgivable and unforgivable:
Forgivable crimes refer to those crimes which require filing a complaint by the complainant and not granting forgiveness by them to be investigated.
Unforgivable crimes refer to those crimes in which filing a complaint by the complainant does not have any effect in the investigation.
In criminal cases, the two parties can choose and present at most between 2 to 3 lawyers according to the case. Most criminal cases are presented to the court along with an indictment after initial investigations carried out by the prosecutor’s office. Therefore, the lawyers play a role during both stages. The accused can also have a lawyer present at the initial stage of the investigation by the prosecutor’s office.
Difference between criminal liability and civil liability
There are differences between criminal liability and civil liability which are very important. These differences are:
- Regarding criminal liability, the society suffers from the crime and therefore requests punishment of the culprit; whereas regarding civil liability, the loss and damage is restricted to one specific person. Concerning civil liability, since the crime does not disturb the general order of the society, it does not take measures to defend itself, and the victim of the crime claims their losses from the culprit. In the end, concerning civil liability, the person is responsible towards the victim’s loss, and concerning criminal liability, society is the main victim.
- The aim of criminal liability, is the punishment of the culprit which is done in order to defend the society and general order, compensation for the loss of the community and the reform of other people. However, the aim of civil liability is to compensate the loss of the individual victim.
- Some crimes even though they have severe punishments, they do not have civil liability since they do not provoke loss for other people, such as vagrancy and begging. However, any compensation of losses which bring along civil liability are not necessarily crimes and have civil liability such as excessive seizure of an owner of his property that causes his neighbor’s losses, known as the rule of no harm in the law.
- In order for a crime to happen, and for criminal liability to be proven, there must necessarily be malice or criminal intention or negligence by the criminal’s part in all intentional and unintentional (quasi-intentional, pure fault) crimes. Whereas legally, establishing civil liability does not require the affirmation of the wrongdoer’s malice. However, errors resulting in civil liability are usually as a result of carelessness, imprudence, lack of skills, or violation of state regulations. In some cases, the law holds someone responsible for compensating losses but that person has not committed any crime.
- The procedure for discovery, pursuit and investigation of criminal affairs starts by the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement officials under the supervision of the attorney general. After that, it is presented along with a mandate to the respective court such as one and two, children and teenagers, and etc… but investigation of legal cases initially start at the legal court and there is no prosecutor’s office in legal cases.
- Establishing criminal liability requires investigation of the criminal’s personality and justice obligates that personal and mental aspects of the criminal at the time of the crime be taken into account, so that if conditions such as madness, young age, and other factors resolving criminal liability are present, the person will be considered free from criminal liability and exempted from punishment. In the case of civil liability, the basis of the fault is not the ability to attribute the action to the culprit, but rather to compare the issue with the behavior of a normal person the extent that is socially adequate.
Remark: filing a complaint against a person who has committed an offense and that violation is considered a crime and has a respective punishment and the judge would issue a criminal mandate for it, is called a “criminal complaint” or “gravamen”. Unlike a legal case, writing a criminal complaint does not have a special format, but it is better if it is clearly written in terms of wording and legibility, or best if written by a lawyer.
Differences between criminal and legal cases
The procedure for criminal cases is that first, it is presented to the prosecutor’s office, meaning that the criminal complaint must be addressed to the attorney general and must include the culprit’s complete and precise specifications including first and last name, clear address, and detailed complaint. Respective documentation must also be attached. Whereas in legal cases, there is no need to present the case to the prosecutor’s office. Furthermore, according to article 16 of the code of criminal procedure, whenever a case is first presented to the criminal court, it cannot be presented and pursued in the legal court, unless the private complainant realizes that the issue had a criminal aspect as well. In that case, they can cancel their legal case and start over by presenting it to the criminal court. However, if a case is first presented to the criminal court, and the criminal conviction is delayed for legal reasons, the petitioner can cancel and return their case, and refer to the legal court for claiming their losses. In case the private claimant has previously paid the costs of the trial, they do not need to pay it again.
One of the important issues regarding any case, is distinguishing whether they are considered legal or criminal. Since the way they should be presented differs from one another. Some of these points are mentioned as follows:
- Criminal cases refer to actions for which the court considers punishments such as murder, forging, theft, fraud and so on. However, there is no punishment considered for legal cases and the culprit is merely obligated to compensate for the victim’s losses or perform their duties, such as requiring tenants to pay the rent designated in the lease, delivery of the sold products to the customers or paying the amount of transaction to the dealer or seller, obliging the husband or father to pay the alimony of his wife or children, requiring couples to comply to one another and perform their marital duties and etc…
- According to the civil procedure code, legal cases must be written in specific printed papers called “petitions” otherwise they would not be considered, whereas criminal complaints can be written in normal papers and do not require special printed forms.
- Regarding legal cases, whenever the petitioner withdraws their claim and calls off their petition, the case will be closed and no longer pursued whereas in most criminal cases, even if the private complainant retracts their petition, the case will not be closed and the culprit will be required to bear their punishment according to law, due to their crime being unforgiveable (such as murder, bribery, adultery, and so on…).
- In criminal case, the complainant is referred to as “plaintiff” or “private complainant” and the person against whom the case is filed is referred to as “the accused” and the subject of the case is called the accusation. Whereas in legal cases, the petitioner or applicant is called the demanding, the opposing party is called the defendant, and the subject of the case is called the demanded.
- In order to ask the criminal case’s party (the accused) to the court, a paper called a subpoena is sent to them, but in order to ask a legal case’s party (the defendant) to the court, a paper called a warning notice is sent to them.
Due to the very high importance of criminal files and cases and the discrimination between legal and criminal cases which might not be easy for ordinary people, it is crucial to consult those who have exact information on the matter. Our suggestion for you is to consult our expert attorneys at Sarasa Law Office regarding criminal cases.