General criminal law

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Offences and penalties

The handling of any criminal case, whether simple or complex, requires a good knowledge of general criminal law and reflexes derived from regular practice in this field.

Each case involves the analysis and resolution of numerous preliminary issues on which the prosecution of the offence, the principle of conviction, the type of punishment and the severity of the sentence will depend.

This will be the case for questions related to theapplication of the law in space, since depending on the place where the offence is committed or its nature, Swiss law will apply, even to acts committed abroad.

The question of theapplication of the law over time also arises frequently, when it is a question of choosing the law most favourable to the accused or of examining whether, as a result of the passage of time and the occurrence of the statute of limitations, the offence can no longer be prosecuted.

Depending on the type of offence, it can only be prosecuted if a complaint has been lodged, which will have to be verified.

Depending on the status of theoffender – perpetrator, instigator or accomplice – the penalty will be more or less severe. Similarly, depending on the degree to which the offence was committed – preparatory acts, attempt, desistance, completed offence – the sentence may be reduced or the perpetrator may be exempted from the sentence.

Provided that certain circumstances specific to the perpetrator are met when committing the offence – deep distress, violent emotion, etc. – the sentence should be mitigated. Similarly, certain events subsequent to the offence, such as the repair of the damage, should lead to a mitigation of the sentence or may give rise to an exemption from the sentence.

For each case handled, and on the basis of specific checklists, our lawyers examine each of these issues in a systematic and meticulous manner in order to ensure that all important matters are dealt with in the exclusive interest of their clients.

This is true both in the context ofoffences against life (murder, assassination, negligent homicide, endangering the life of others, …), as well as in the case of against bodily integrity (simple, serious or negligent bodily harm), against the heritage (theft, robbery, property damage, home invasion) and against sexual integrity (sexual acts on children, sexual coercion, rape, …). This also applies to offences against freedom (coercion, kidnapping, abduction and trafficking in human beings), in the context of pornography or offences against honor and secrecy (defamation, slander, insult, misuse of a telecommunication facility, etc.).

Our partner lawyers advise and represent you with unwavering commitment in all areas of general criminal law, whether it involves felonies, misdemeanors or infractions.

Key points

  • Application of Swiss law: territoriality (3 SCC), extraterritoriality (4, 5, 6 and 7 SCC) and place of commission (8 SCC)
  • Application of the law in time: prohibition of retroactivity (2 al. 1 PC), but law most favorable to the accused (2 al. 2 PC). Prescription (97 CP) and imprescriptibility (101 CP)
  • Offensive behaviour: action (art. 1 CP) or omission (11 CP)
  • Guilt: Intention (12 al. 1 and 2), negligence (12 al. 3 CP) and irresponsibility (19 CP)
  • Justifying facts: legal justifying facts (14 PC), state of necessity (15 and 16 PC), self-defense (17 and 18 PC), extra-legal justifying facts
  • The participants: author, co-author, instigator (24 CP) and accomplice (25 CP)
  • Levels of achievement: attempts (22 PC), withdrawal and active repentance (23 PC), preparatory criminal acts (260bis PC)
  • Prosecution ex officio or on complaint: complaint of the injured party (30 PC) and withdrawal of complaint (33 PC)
  • The penalties: custodial sentence (40 CP), pecuniary penalty (34 CP) and fine (106 CP). Sentencing (47 CP)
  • Mitigating circumstances and exemptions from punishment: mitigations of punishment (48 and 48a PC), exemption/lack of interest in punishment (52 PC), exemption/reparation (53 PC) and exemption/injury suffered by the perpetrator as a result of his act (54 PC)
  • Aggravating circumstances: aggravation of sentence / competition (49 CP)
  • Suspension: suspended sentence (42 CP), partial suspension (43 CP) and probation (44 CP)
  • Therapeutic measures: institutional treatment (59, 60 and 61 CP), outpatient treatment (63 CP) and internment (64 CP)
  • Other measures : preventive bail (66 CP), compulsory deportation (66a CP), non-compulsory deportation (66a bis CP), prohibition to exercise an activity (67 CP), prohibition of contact and geographical prohibition (67b CP), prohibition to drive (67e CP) publication of the judgment (68 StGB), confiscation of dangerous objects (69 StGB), confiscation of assets (70 StGB), compensation claim (71 StGB), confiscation of assets of a criminal organization (72 StGB) and compensation to the injured party (73 StGB)

FAQ - Criminal Law