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Julio Muerza Esparza, , Full Professor Procedural Law . University of Navarra

The Accused

Wed, 18 Feb 2015 09:44:00 +0000 Published in Diaries of group Vocento

It is common that when we hear that a person is "charged", we automatically think that he/she is guilty, that is to say, that he/she has committed certain acts punishable under the Penal Code. However, this is not the case. The accused is the subject on whom there are suspicions about the commission of a fact that has the characteristics of a crime, which gives rise to the internship of police or judicial proceedings. At the end of such proceedings, a specific accusation may or may not be filed by the accusing parties (written statement of qualifications or indictment) and, as the case may be, the corresponding trial will be held, which will end with an acquittal or conviction. In the Criminal Procedure Law it is reflected, among others, in article 118, when it states: "Any person to whom a punishable act is imputed...". Precept that, in the opinion of the Constitutional Court, "recognizes the new category of accused to any person to whom a punishable act is attributed, more or less well founded, allowing him to exercise the right of defense, in its broadest content, acting in the criminal procedure whatever it is, from the moment he is immediately informed of the Admissions Office of the complaint or any other procedural action from which the imputation of a crime results, or has been subject to detention, or any other precautionary measure ...."(STC 1354/1989, July 19, 1989). Consequently, upon being declared accused, he becomes part of the process and, therefore, protected by all the procedural guarantees (attendance of counsel, to remain silent, not to plead guilty...) -guarantees that are not applicable to the witness-.

It follows from the foregoing that a person may be charged on the basis of facts that may have the characteristics of a crime, without being able to determine at that initial moment what specific criminal subject they may constitute.