Legal defense of foreigners detainees in Switzerland and Italy

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Are you a Spanish speaker? Do you live or plan to visit Switzerland or Italy in the near future? Can you imagine you could have a legal problem being in these countries? What do you know about the criminal system in them? How to act in that case? Whom you should turn to?

In any country where we are, if we do not speak their language, it is difficult to understand what they tell us or to make ourselves be understood. If we add to this that the topic of conversation is a legal problem of which we have little or no knowledge, mutual understanding becomes even harder.

It may be that from Italian to Spanish and vice versa there are very similar words and a Spanish speaker can understand or make sense of a conversation in this language. But what about Switzerland? Although it surprises you, in this country there are four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch, but also, in many of the schools of this country, Spanish is being optionally taught.

Anyway, nothing better for a person who speaks Spanish, than to listen someone speaking in his own language to be completely sure of what he is listening to or that the person who listens to him is not distorting what he says. Therefore, in legal matters, opt for assistance in your language, it is the best.

So, are there any lawyers who speak Spanish in countries like Switzerland and Italy?

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Of course there are, and if at any time we need to contact one, the best is to call the General Consulate of our country and request a list with the name and location of lawyers who speak Spanish in the country where we are.

There will always be a second option, and it will be to opt for the public defender who is recommended to us and also for a translator, which is also a free service.

And what do you know about the laws in Switzerland and in Italy? If for some reason you were arrested in one of these countries what should you expect?

Let us first talk of Switzerland. This country has her own very particular criminal system. Their laws are based on trying first of all to reform all those who make a mistake for the first time, giving them the opportunity to vindicate themselves.

The opinion of the Swiss, is that prison sentences (unless they are for recidivists) do not bring about good outcomes and do not allow offenders to properly re-incorporate themselves into society.

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Their idea is that passing deprivation of liberty sanctions does not protect society from danger. Therefore, they prefer to pass sanctions based on "fines". That is the reason why they have a very low prison population. Nowadays, it is being requested in the reforms of the Criminal Law, that the penalties are increased, a petition that not everyone approves of.

Does the same thing happen in Italy?

The answer is an emphatic NO, the Italian criminal system is very similar to the Spanish one. In Italy the criminal system of the accusatory type prevails maintaining some elements of the inquisitive type.

In this country, after passing a sentence in a trial, depending on the outcome of the trial the judge can condemn the "losing party" to repay the costs of the process and the attorneys' fees to the winning party.

As in almost all countries, there is also free legal assistance in Italy, provided that the defendant does not have the financial resources to pay for a lawyer.

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This "free" legal assistance is assumed by the State. That, depending on the outcome of the trial, they have the right to request compensation from the convicted party.

All processes are carried out taking into account the equality of the parties, before an impartial judge.

In the criminal process, the law guarantees that the accused is informed of the reasons for which he is accused in the shortest possible time and that they have time and the necessary conditions to prepare their defense.

The detainee will have the right to choose or request a lawyer for his defense who will be able to question the people who make any statement against the accused, as well as to request the appearance in court of people who testify in their favor, having also the right to ask for an interpreter free of charge in case they do not speak the same language.

For his part, the defense attorney will ensure that all the rights of the accused are respected at all times during the entire process.

The criminal process in Italy has two important phases: a first investigative phase, aimed at the background work that is carried out by the Judicial Police and the District Attorney´s Office, and a second phase as a "process" in which the evidence is already available and which can eventually lead to a precautionary measure against the accused. After this a "Preliminary Hearing" is held between the parties, and it will actually start the legal process.

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