Italy: Defendants' Rights In Italian Criminal Proceedings

Last Updated: 16 April 2019
Article by Arnone & Sicomo

Defendants' rights in Italian criminal proceedings: who has the right to defence? 

The defendant's rights to defence in Italy are inviolable. They are guaranteed by the Italian Constitution.

Everybody has right to defence, but, in order to be able to exercise this right, it is of fundamental importance to know the defendant's rights and obligations as provided by law.

The regulatory and procedural framework of the Italian system is quite complicated, this is why it is necessary to understand clearly what are the procedural steps, which rights are guaranteed by law, and under which rules they can be exercised.

Indeed, it must be specified first of all that in Italy, criminal proceedings can be initiated by the police or by a Public Prosecutor, whenever a potential crime comes to their attention.

At the end of the investigations the Public Prosecutor can decide whether to close the case or bring it to court, seeking an indictment against the person to whom the crime is attributed.

In case of serious crimes, the indictment is transmitted to the Preliminary Hearing Judge. After the preliminary hearing the Judge can decide whether to bring the case to Court or to end the legal action, closing the case.

In case of less serious crimes, or in case of cases falling within the jurisdiction of the Justices of the Peace, the Public Prosecutor will directly summon the defendant before the Court, skipping the preliminary hearing. 

In Italy, there are three degrees of criminal justice:

- First degree, where the evidence is collected and the first judgement (which can either be an acquittal judgement or a conviction sentence) is delivered;

- Appeal before the Appeal Court, lodged either by the Public Prosecutor (in case of acquittal judgement) or by the defendant (in case of conviction sentence). The Court of Appeal can decide to set aside or alter the first judgement;

- Court of Cassation. This is the highest degree of judgement, where the Court of Cassation must give decision on the appeals promoted against the Appeal Court's judgements. It is worth noticing that the court of Cassation cannot make decisions on the substance, while it can only make a decision on the legitimacy of the case. The Court of Cassation can confirm the second degree judgement, referring the case back to the Appeal Court.

After a case has been judged through all three degrees of criminal justice, the judgement becomes final. In case of conviction sentence, it becomes enforceable and thus it has to be served.

It is also worth noticing that apart from the above mentioned first judgement in Italy there exist also other special procedures, such as:

- Abbreviated criminal trial procedure;

- Out-of-Court settlements;

- Briefest course of judgement;

- Proceedings for penalty order.

If you need more information on Italian criminal trial,  click here.

What are the defendants' rights in Italian criminal proceedings?

The defendant's rights in Italian criminal law cover every step of criminal procedure, ss well as of  criminal proceedings. They can be described as follows:

Right to gathering exculpatory evidence: given that the police has to carry out the investigations (such as inspections and searches) authorized by the Public prosecutor, it is worth remembering that during preliminary investigations the suspected person has the right to gather exculpatory evidence.

For body searches (to be carried out ensuring full respect for human dignity) the assistance of a trustworthy person can be required, provided that he/she is readily available. In case a mandate of inspection or sequestration is issued, the police has to give a copy of the search/sequestration report to the suspected person, and to inform the latter that he/she has the right to be assisted by a lawyer.

In case the sequestered items are useful for investigative and evidentiary purposes, the suspected person, by means of his/her lawyer, can lodge either a petition for the release of the same items or an application for review before the Review Court, within 10 days after the notification of the seizure order.

Interrogatory: during preliminary investigation the suspected person can be questioned by the police. During interrogatories the presence of the suspected person's lawyer is mandatory. The suspected person has the right to be informed of charges and evidence against him/her, and is free to decide whether to answer or not the questions from the police.

The defendant in a criminal case has no obligation to tell the truth, so that, even though he/she lies, he/she cannot be held liable for perjury.

Arrest, provisional detention, preventive custody, and European arrest warrant: the Judge for Preliminary Investigations can order preventive detention in prison, either in case there is clear inculpatory evidence against the accused person, or in case the accused person is at risk of tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, reiteration of crime, or absconding.

Immediately after the arrest, the Police has to inform the arrested person of his/her right to appoint a lawyer. In case he/she appoints no lawyer, a legal-aid lawyer will be appointed.

In case of preventive custody in prison, the Judge has to interrogate the arrested person within 5 days following the arrest (custodial interrogation). 

Foreigners who don't speak Italian have the right to interpretation and to translation of documents.

Interpreting assistance is free and it has to be guaranteed even during the talks between the suspected person and his/her lawyer in prison.

Defendants' rights in the Italian criminal trial 

Criminal trials in Italy are carried out before the Court with jurisdiction over the matter and the territory concerned. Usually jurisdiction is vested in the Courts of the place where the crime was committed.

Criminal proceedings in Italy are public, except for particularly sensitive trials, which can be closed to the public by Court decision.

Defendants have the following rights in Italian criminal proceedings:

- The suspect is not required to attend the trial, except for certain acts, such as the identification of the accused person by a witness;

- Defendants who don't speak Italian have the right to be assisted by an interpreter;

- Defendants have the right to be assisted by a lawyer. Assistance by a lawyer is mandatory by law in criminal proceedings. In case the defendant appoints no lawyer, a legal-aid lawyer will be appointed.

- In case of lack of money, defendants in Italy are entitled to legal aid, as far as permitted by law;

- Defendants have the right to make voluntary statements at every time during the trial;

- Defendants have the right to answer questions during an examination, as well as the right to silence;

- The defendant's lawyer can request the Judge to admit exculpatory evidence and ask questions to prosecution witnesses.

Defendants' rights in Italian criminal proceedings: how can Arnone&Sicomo Law Firm support you?

Arnone&Sicomo Law Firm provides assistance in criminal matters to any person accused of a crime, as well as to victims of crime. Our criminal defence attorneys provide professional assistance to all parties in criminal proceedings, offering you the best possible advices, in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.

By means of special Powers of Attorneys, our criminal defence attorneys can bring a civil action in the criminal proceedings in order to seek compensation for the damage suffered by the victims of a crime.

We help (foreign) detainees to keep in touch with their relatives.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions