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Argentina: Reform of Code of Criminal Procedure

(Dec. 16, 2014) On December, 4, 2014, a proposal to reform the Code of Criminal Procedure, submitted to the legislature by the Executive branch of Argentina, was passed by the Congress. It passed mainly on the basis of the votes of the President’s party; the opposition voted almost unanimously against it. (Es Ley el Nuevo Código Procesal Penal, TELAM (Dec. 4, 2014); Código Procesal Penal de la Nación [National Code of Criminal Procedure], INFOJUS [Ministry of Justice database] (Dec. 4, 2014).)

The new Code changes the current inquisitorial system, under which the judge is in charge of both the criminal investigation and the sentencing of the accused, to an accusatory system, under which prosecutors are the ones who will carry out the investigation, leaving only the sentencing to the judge. (Gabriel Sued, Tiene Dictamen el Nuevo Código Procesal Penal, LA NACIÓN (Nov. 28, 2014).)

The new provisions include the requirements that criminal investigations be completed within one year and that trials be carried out within five to thirty days after the investigation is concluded. Judges and prosecutors will be held accountable and subject to sanctions if they do not meet the set deadlines. (Id.)

One of the most contentious changes is the criteria that will now be used by the courts to order preventive arrest. While under the old rules a courts could only order preventive arrest if there was a risk of the suspect’s escape from or obstruction of the criminal investigation, under the new Code a judge may order preventive arrest by also taking into consideration the specific circumstances of the indicted, such as possession of a prior criminal record and/or a record of previous arrests, the nature of the crime, and the social impact of the crime. Those suspected of serious crimes will be detained from the start of the investigation and will be tried within ten months. (Id.)

Under the new Code, foreigners who are caught in flagrante perpetrating a crime that is subject to a penalty of three years or more of imprisonment and who do not have legal immigration status may be subject to deportation and may be forbidden to enter the country for up to 15 years. However, those who have legal immigration status may request to serve their sentence in Argentina. (Id.)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that the Code would only apply to new cases; prosecutions and investigations underway will continue under the previous rules of Criminal Procedure. According to its proponents, the new Code will provide the legal system with better tools to combat crime through a faster process. (Id.)