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Judiciary Starts to Enforce New Criminal Procedure Law

On April 1, 2016, the Iranian judiciary began enforcing the Iranian law of criminal procedure, which was passed two years ago and introduced important changes to criminal procedure that will have consequences for IP cases.
According to the Iranian Criminal Procedure Law , issued in February 23, 2014 (articles 22, 294, 426), due process of criminal law has three stages: 1- preliminary investigation in the prosecutor’s office (under state attorney); this stage may end in issuing an indictment; 2- primary court which issues a ruling in either sentencing or acquitting; 3- the court of appeal.
The new Islamic Penal Code, issued in April 21, 2013 (article 19) has classified all punishments into eight categories based on their severity. Furthermore, a newly added article in theCriminal Procedure Law (article 340) stipulates that crimes subject to punishments in categories 7 and 8 will be directly investigated by the primary court.
Article 19 of the new Islamic Penal Code defines category 7 in following terms:

“imprisonment from 91 days to 6 month; fine more than 10 million Ryials to 20 million Ryials; lashes from 11 to 30 lashes; depriving of social rights up to 6 month.”

Article 61 of the Patents, Industrial Designs and Trademarks Registration Act (issued in 2008) prescribes the following punishment for all IP cases dealt with in this law: a fine from 10 to 50 million Ryials, or imprisonment from 91 days to 6 month, or both. Taking the new classification into consideration, this punishment falls under category 7 of the Islamic Penal Code described above. Therefore, according to new developments, all IP cases in Iran will be investigated directly by the judge in the primary court; the judge in the primary court will also issue orders for seize and detention if necessary. Then an appeal can filed in the Appellate Court. The prosecutor’s office no longer has jurisdiction in IP cases. As a result, the due process of law in IP criminal cases which formerly had three stages is now reduced to two stages. These legislations were passed 3 years ago, but they began to be implemented just a few months ago. The goal of the legislator, on the one hand, was to reduce the work load of the prosecutor’s office, and on the other hand, to accelerate the process of law when the punishments are not heavy.
The other reform that affects the length of the process in criminal prosecution is article 450 of the Criminal Procedure Law, according to which if the Appellate Court wants to sentence in a given case or to approve a sentence issued in the primary court, it must schedule a hearing session and invite the parties to the court. In the former version of the law, this was optional but now it is mandatory. This new requirement, on the one hand, will give more precision to the court hearing and more effectively protects the defendant’s right, and, on the other hand, will add several months sometimes a year to the length of the criminal process.