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The Penal Code has been reformed : What does this mean for you?

The new Criminal Code has finally been approved. At, we understand that these changes are far-reaching, and we want to explain clearly what this means for you as a litigant.

New structure of penalty levels

A notable feature of the reform is the introduction of eight levels of punishment. Each crime will be placed in a particular penalty level and each level will have specific penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.

Within the new structure, it is important to note that penalty levels 2 to 8 allow for prison sentences. Level 8, for example, includes life imprisonment or treatment under deprivation of liberty for more than 18 years to a maximum of 20 years. In mitigating circumstances, this sentence can be replaced by imprisonment at a lower sentence level.

For level 1, the lowest level of punishment, only alternative sentences are applied, such as fines, community service, probation, forfeiture, or conviction by guilty plea.

Prison sentences as ultimum remedium

The intention is that cell sentences will now be seen as a last resort. They will be applied only when other punishments do not have the intended effect. This approach aims to minimise the risk of recurrence, based on scientific research showing that cell sentences for minor crimes can cause more harm and increase the risk of recurrence.

Types of Books in Criminal Law

The Penal Code, which sets out the rules for offences and associated punishments, consists of two volumes that serve as signposts. Let us explain to you in plain language what each book entails:

  1. Book 1: General Rules

    Book I sets out the general rules: what is a crime and when is an offender? What, if any, are justifications? What penalties can be imposed and why can they be aggravated or reduced? ...

  2. Book 2: Offences

    Book II then defines all crimes and links them to one of the penalty levels from Book I.

This simple dichotomy helps make the Penal Code understandable. It is like navigating through a handy map to know which rules apply to different situations.

Why a lawyer?

These changes can seem complex, and it is here that a lawyer is invaluable. Whether you are dealing with Level 1 or Level 8, a lawyer can guide you through these new codes, make sure your rights are protected and that you get the best possible defence.