The law of criminal procedure and criminal proceedings in Austria
In the law of criminal procedure (regulated by the Austrian Code on Criminal Procedure, abbreviated to “StPO”), the course of the criminal prosecution is regulated by the Criminal Investigation Department, the Public Prosecution Service and the Court. In criminal proceedings, it is looked into and determined whether a person committed a particular, offence liable to prosecution, and what punishment is being imposed for it.
Criminal proceedings are initiated if the Criminal Investigation Department or the Public Prosecution Service is aware that a crime has presumably been committed. This is done by reporting it (e.g. an emergency call to the police) or through the Criminal Investigation Department’s or Public Prosecution Service’s own perception.
The Public Prosecution Service needs to bring charges for any offences prosecuted ex officio (e.g. bodily harm, fraud) about which it has officially become aware.
Any private individual is entitled to report an offence to the Public Prosecution Service or the police station, but not obliged to do so.
The proceedings are broken down into the preliminary proceedings and the main proceedings or diversion.
In the preliminary proceedings, the Public Prosecution Service obtains as accurate an impression about the offence as possible, in collaboration with the Criminal Investigation Department. The Public Prosecution Service leads the preliminary investigation (leadership function) and decides whether the criminal proceedings are to be continued or terminated.
The initial investigations are in most cases conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department. The first contact for the Criminal Investigation Department is the Public Prosecution Service. The orders issued by the Public Prosecution Service need to be executed. The Criminal Investigation Department may, however, due to tactical considerations, establish how the orders shall be carried out itself. The Public Prosecution Service may also conduct investigations itself.
Prior to the charge being filed, the accused is usually heard by the Criminal Investigation Department and/or the Public Prosecution Service.
The Public Prosecution Service decides whether a charge will be brought against the accused or whether the proceedings will be suspended, or terminated by way of a diversion. If the proceedings are suspended, the accused, as well as any victims, are informed about it.