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Criminal justice: what are the alternatives to a trial?

Verified 01 January 2023 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

To avoid a criminal trial, alternative measures may be taken by the public prosecutor. The objective is to ensure reparation of the damage caused to the victim, to stop the offence and rehabilitate the perpetrator socially. The prosecutor may act directly or through a judicial police officer, a public prosecutor or mediator. These measures are aimed at adults and minors.

The criminal warning is an interview conducted by the public prosecutor or his delegate. The purpose of this interview is to remind the offender of what the law says and what penalties he or she may face for violating it.

The author may benefit from this alternative to criminal prosecution when he acknowledges having committed the offence he is accused of.

There may be no criminal warning of evidence in the following cases:

  • if the author has already been convicted by the courts
  • if the person has committed violence or offence against public authority depositary or with an elected mandate
  • if the victim of the offence committed has not obtained compensation for the harm caused by the perpetrator.

The decision shall be reviewed by the public prosecutor if the offender commits a new offence within 2 years (only one year if the offence is a violation). The perpetrator will then be tried for the 2 offences committed.

The perpetrator can be referred to a health, social or professional structure to take one of the following courses:

  • Citizenship internship (reminder of republican values)
  • Training to raise awareness of the dangers of drug use
  • Road safety awareness training (in the event of a vehicle-related offence)
  • Accountability course for prevention and control of domestic violence
  • Awareness course on combating the purchase of sexual services (in the context of the fight against prostitution)
  • Parental responsibility training (reminding parents of their rights and duties)
  • Training course on gender mainstreaming and gender awareness

This internship must be paid by the perpetrator.

Please note

if the perpetrator is a minor, legal representatives shall be convened before the measure is implemented. They have to agree. The prosecutor sets the share of the probationary expenses to be paid by the parents.

The minor may also be referred to a civic training course or to a consultation with a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Please note

the public prosecutor may ask the minor and his legal representatives to justify the minor's attendance at education or vocational training.

The public prosecutor may allow the perpetrator to comply with the law or regulations.

For example, regularisation of the situation by the perpetrator is possible in the following situations:

  • Construction permit not requested prior to completion of work
  • Vehicle compliance with the law
  • Payment of alimony no longer paid by the perpetrator

The author of the facts must prove that he has regularised his situation by presenting the necessary document (construction permit accepted, vehicle conformity invoice ...). The success of the measure allows the perpetrator to escape prosecution.

Please note

if the perpetrator is a minor, legal representatives shall be convened before the measure is implemented. They must also give their consent.

The prosecutor may ask the perpetrator to repair the damage caused to the victim. For example, compensation or restoration of the damaged property may be provided.

The victim is informed of the reparation proposals. They may accept or reject them.

Please note

if the perpetrator is a minor, legal representatives shall be convened before the measure is implemented. The minor and his/her legal representatives must give their consent by means of a report.

If the damage concerns the property of a commune, the prosecutor can ask the author of the facts to respond to a summons from the mayor. This summons allows the perpetrator to conclude a transaction with the town hall.

The public prosecutor may prohibit the perpetrator from going to one or more specific places where the offence was committed (a bar, a market, a gym, etc.).

It may also prohibit the perpetrator from visiting the place where the victim resides.

The measure is decided for a maximum period of 6 months.

At the request of the victim, in the event of repeated domestic or family violence, the prosecutor may prohibit the perpetrator from approaching and residing at the family home. This measure is decided for a maximum period of 6 months. In the case of domestic or family violence, the measure may be accompanied by the medical, social or psychological care of the perpetrator.

Please note

if the perpetrator is a minor, legal representatives shall be convened before the measure is implemented.

The public prosecutor may ask the perpetrator not to meet or enter into a relationship with the following persons:

  • Victim
  • Complicity
  • Co-author

The prohibition is for a maximum period of 6 months.

Please note

if the perpetrator is a minor, legal representatives shall be convened before the measure is implemented.

At the request or with the consent of the victim, the prosecutor may order a criminal mediation.

The purpose of this action is to resolve the dispute amicably.

In case of success, a written agreement shall be signed between the mediator, the victim and the author.

Please note

if the perpetrator is a minor, legal representatives shall be convened before the measure is implemented. They must also give their consent.

The public prosecutor may ask the perpetrator to pay a citizen contribution to a victim support organisation.

The amount of this contribution shall be determined by the prosecutor according to the gravity of the facts, the resources and the charges of the perpetrator.

The maximum amount is €3,000.

The penal composition is an alternative procedure to prosecution.

It may be proposed by the Public Prosecutor for ticketing and certain offences such as drug use or drunken driving.

This procedure is addressed to the natural person (major or minor) or legal person, who admits his guilt.

Please note

in the case of a minor, he and his legal representatives must give their consent, in the presence of a lawyer.

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