A case in the Netherlands

A criminal case in the Netherlands

In criminal proceedings, a lawsuit is brought against the accused by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM). The OM is represented by a public prosecutor. The criminal proceedings usually start with the police, after which the prosecutor decides whether to prosecute the suspect. If the public prosecutor proceeds to prosecute the suspect, the case ends up in court.

The offences

Offenses can be found in the Penal Code, the Weapons Act, the Opium Act, or the Road Traffic Act, among others. Under the principle of legality, no one may be convicted of an act or omission with no prior statutory penal provision.

A distinction can be made between misdemeanors and felonies. A felony is a more severe offense than a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor could include assault or murder. Some examples of an offense are public drunkenness or vandalism.

The investigation

A criminal case often starts with the police. This may be in response to a report or trace of a criminal offense. The investigation began under the public prosecutor’s direction, working with the police. The suspect is sought, and evidence is collected. The findings of the investigation come in an official report that is sent to the public prosecutor. Based on the official report, the public prosecutor assesses the case. The prosecutor also assesses whether the suspect will be prosecuted. This is known as the expediency principle; the public prosecutor decides whether to prosecute an offense.


If the prosecutor proceeds to prosecute, the accused will receive a summons. The summons describes the offense for which the accused is being prosecuted and states where and when the accused should appear in court.

Treatment by the court

As a defendant, you are not obliged to attend the hearing. If you decide to attend, the judge will question you during the hearing. However, you are not obliged to answer his questions. This is due to the nemo tenetur principle: you are not obliged to cooperate actively with your own conviction. When the judge has finished questioning the accused, he will give the floor to the prosecutor.

The public prosecutor then gives an indictment. In it, he sets out the facts and evidence for the offense. He then ends his indictment with his demand for the offense.

After the public prosecutor has spoken, the accused’s lawyer will make his plea. In the plea, the lawyer responds to the prosecutor’s indictment and represents the client’s interests. Finally, the accused is given the floor.

Judge’s ruling

There are several decisions the judge can make. For a finding of proof, a minimum amount of evidence must be available to convict the accused. Whether the evidence minimum is met requires an assessment of the specific case and is in the hands of the judge.

First, the accused may be acquitted by the judge. In this case, according to the judge, the offense is not proven, or the judge judges that the offense is not punishable. However, it may also be that the judge is not convinced that the accused committed the criminal conduct.

In addition, the accused may be discharged from prosecution. This is the case, for example, in cases of self-defense or if the suspect is mentally ill. In these cases, the judge finds the accused not to be punishable or the offence for which the accused is being prosecuted is not punishable. The criminal proceedings may end here. However, the judge may also impose a measure upon dismissal of the prosecution. This could include TBS for a suspect with a mental disorder.

Furthermore, the accused may also be punished. Three main penalties can be distinguished: imprisonment, exemplary service, and community service. The court can also impose a measure such as payment of damages or TBS.

A punishment can serve several purposes. For instance, it can serve as retribution. After all, when a person has committed a criminal act, he cannot get away with it. In addition, the victim, but also society, deserves satisfaction. The purpose of punishment is to prevent the offender from repeating himself. Furthermore, a punishment should have a deterrent effect. Criminals must know that a criminal act will not go unpunished. Finally, punishing the offender protects society.

Are you facing criminal proceedings? If so, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Law & More. Our lawyers have extensive experience and will be happy to provide you with advice and assist you in legal proceedings.


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