Law of Venezuela

The legal system of Venezuela belongs to the Continental Law tradition. Venezuela was the first country in the world to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, doing so in 1863.[1]

Public law

The basis for its public law is the 1999 Constitution. The 1999 Constitution made significant changes to the separation of powers. Instead of the usual three branches of government, the new Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has five:

  1. The executive branch (the Presidency).
  2. The legislative branch (the National Assembly of Venezuela).
  3. The judicial branch (the judiciary).
  4. The electoral branch (poder electoral, or "electoral power").
  5. The citizens' branch (poder ciudadano, or "citizens' power").

The electoral branch is headed by the National Electoral Council (CNE) and is responsible for the independent oversight of all elections in the country, municipal, state, and federal. The citizens' branch is constituted by the (defensor del pueblo) (ombudsman or "defender of the people"), the Chief Public Prosecutor (fiscal general), and the comptroller general (contralor general). It is responsible for representing and defending the citizens in their dealings with powers of the Venezuelan state.

The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, whose 32 justices ("magistrados") are elected by the National Assembly for a single 12-year term.[2]

Criminal Law

Until 1998 Venezuelan criminal law was governed by the Código de Enjuiciamiento Criminal of 1926. The 1926 procedures "followed many of the traditional rules of inquisitorial tradition",[3] with the pretrial process substantially under the judge's control. At the initial sumario step a judge would direct the police investigation; and after apprehension by police, the judge had 72 hours to decide whether to keep suspects in detention. At the second plenario step the process became more adversarial and documents of process made available to the defendant, but the judge still had "wide discretion to pursue charges beyond those outlined in the accusation".[3] The 1926 code was established by the dictator Juan Vicente Gómez, and represented a substantial change from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century procedures, where Venezuela had jury trials and oral procedures in some states.[3] Gómez standardised legal procedures and suppressed juries.[3]

In July 1998 Venezuela's criminal law was radically reformed, with the replacement of the 1926 code with the Código Orgánico Procesal Penal.[3] The old secret sumario phase was abolished, and defendants had the immediate right to a lawyer on arrest or indictment.[3] The indictment and police investigation process was now controlled by prosecutors rather than judges, and suspects had to be charged within 24 hours.[3] For more serious crimes, jurors would be involved.[3] Plea bargaining was accepted, and in some cases defendants could avoid punishment by making restitution to their victims.[3] However, the radical package of reforms, partly inspired by Germany's "liberal code, low crime, and notably small incarcerated population"[3] ignored the dominant Venezuelan culture "in which the only conceivable form of punishment is prison or corporal punishment".[3]

Within a year of the new criminal code, commissions had been formed to consider revising it.[3] The first reform, in March 2000, [3] among other changes reinstated the old 72-hour time limit for judicial decision on imprisonment. The reform was presented as "a necessary defense of society from criminality, implying that the new code was ill-adapted to Venezuelan society and overly lenient toward criminals."[3] Further changes in November 2001 made a substantial number of changes which "left very little of the original spirit of the 1998 code".[3] Jury trials were abolished, and among changes prosecutors were given six months to proceed with trial or drop charges.[3] In 1999 - 2001 a high proportion of jury trials had been postponed, as a range of problems with the new jury approach remained to be addressed. However other delays were more significant contributors to postponement.[3] Whilst the number of criminal judges more than doubled from 1998 to 2004, the number of prosecutors did not substantially increase, despite the increased importance of this office in the legal system.[3] The Venezuelan Fiscal General estimated 2900 cases per prosecutor in 2004, rising to 4000 in 2006.[3]

In 2012 Venezuela banned the possession of firearms in public places.[4] In addition, it banned the commercial sale and private import of firearms and ammunition, following a public consultation showing strong support for the measure.[5][6]

References

  1. ^ Roger G. Hood. The death penalty: a worldwide perspective, Oxford University Press, 2002. p10
  2. ^ Antonio Ramirez, May 2006, An Introduction to Venezuelan Governmental Institutions And Primary Legal Sources
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Alguindigue, Carmen; Perdomo, Rogelio Perez (2008), "Inquisitor Strikes Back: Obstacles to the Reform of Criminal Procedure", Southwestern Journal of International Law, Vol. 15, Issue 1 (2008), pp. 101-122
  4. ^ Associated Press, ABC News , 25 May 2012, Venezuela Outlaws Taking Guns Into Public Places
  5. ^ Venezuelanalysis.com, 25 May 2012, Commercial Sale of Firearms and Ammunition Banned in Venezuela
  6. ^ (Spanish) El Universal, 2 March 2012, El Aissami anuncia prohibición de comercialización de armas a civiles
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.