Norwegian Judicial Process

Norwegian Judicial Process


1. Rights of the accused.

*Rights of the accused. The rights of the accused
are described in the Criminal Procedures Act. The
accused must be informed of the nature of the
charge(s) brought against him or her upon being
arrested and attending court for the first time.
The accused must also be given the chance to
refute the grounds on which the charge is based.
(Criminal Procedures Act, Sect.90,92,171).
Although the accused has a general right to
attend court proceedings and to summon and examine
witnesses, the court can order him or her to leave
the courtroom while a witness is being examined
“if there is special reason to fear that an
unreserved statement will not otherwise be made.”
The accused must be informed subsequently of the
proceedings that occurred in his or her absence.
In special circumstances, such as if national
security interests are at stake, the accused may
be entirely excluded from the proceedings.
(Criminal Procedures Act, Sect. 135,245).
The court’s verdict must be communicated to
the accused as soon as possible, along with
information on rights of appeal. Court judgements
and orders are to be accompanied by reasons.
(Criminal Procedures Act, Sect.39-41,43,52).
The accused has the right to bring appeals
against court verdicts, both on questions of fact
and questions of law. There are, however, several
limitations on the exercise of this right. For
example, appeals to the Supreme Court, which is
the highest judicial body, can only take place if
permitted by the Court’s Appeals Selection
Committee (Kjoerem�lsutvalget). Moreover, the
general rule is that such appeals can only be
based on alleged errors of law. In other words,
the Supreme Court is unable to try questions of
evidence related to the issue of guilt.
(Administration of Justice in Norway, 1980: 65-66;
Criminal Procedures Act, as amended new Chapt 23,
Sect. 323, 1993).
The accused do not have the right to have
their cases tried by jury. As a basic rule,
however, appeals from verdicts reached by the
court of first instance on cases concerning
felonies punishable by more than 6 years’
imprisonment are dealt with by the High Court
(Lagmannsrett). In these cases, there is a jury
(lagrett) present to decide the question of guilt.
(Criminal Procedures Act, new Chapt 24, as
amended, 1993).

*Assistance to the accused. As a general rule,
the accused is entitled to the assistance of
defense counsel of his or her choice during all
stages of the judicial process. The accused is
also provided with the free assistance of defense
counsel, chosen by the court, during the main
court hearing. There are several exceptions to
the latter rule, such as if the case involves a
certain minor offense, like driving under the
influence of alcohol, or when the accused has made
an unreserved confession. However, these
exceptions apply only in cases tried by the City
or District Court. (Criminal Procedures Act,
Sect. 94,96,100,107,262).

2. Procedures.

*Preparatory procedures for bringing a suspect to
trial. Once a person has been arrested, he or she
is brought before the court of examination and
summary jurisdiction (forhorsretten). This court
decides whether or not the person shall be
remanded in custody. The prosecuting authority
then prepares a formal indictment
(tiltalebeslutning), which it serves on the
accused. The indictment contains information on
the time, place and object of the coming trial and
legal details on the nature of the charge.
(Criminal Procedures Act, Sect. 184,184a).
When the relevant 1993 amendments to the CPA
enter into force, all criminal matters will
initially be brought to the District and City
Courts. Appeals will be brought before the High
Court, though in special circumstances they will
be able to go directly to the Supreme Court.
Previously, the most serious criminal cases were
tried by the High Court at first instance. It was
also much easier to bring appeals from decisions
reached by the District and City Courts directly
before the Supreme Court, bypassing the High Court
in the process. (Criminal Procedures Act, new as
amended, Sect.5,6,8, 1993).

*Official who conducts prosecution. The Public
Prosecution Authority is responsible for deciding
whether to prosecute and for conducting the
prosecution. For very serious felonies, such as
murder, the decision to prosecute lies with the
Director General of Public Prosecutions.
Responsibility for prosecuting most other types of
felonies lies with the State attorneys/Public
Prosecutors. Police Commissioners and their
immediate subordinates are also part of the Public
Prosecution Authority and have the power to
prosecute more minor cases, which are typically
misdemeanors. (Administration of Justice in
Norway, 1980: 51-52).
On August 27, 1993, a Royal Resolution was
issued, extending police prosecution powers to
encompass different types of felonies, such as
breaking and entering, falsification of documents,
larceny, fraud and vandalism. (Criminal Procedures
Act, new as amended, cf newly amended, Sect.67,

*Alternatives to trial. Minor offenses can be
settled by the police serving a writ prescribing
payment of an optional fine (forelegg) upon the
accused. This type of writ is usually served in
minor traffic and customs offenses. If the fine is
paid, there are no further judicial proceedings.
If the fine is not paid, the matter can be
prosecuted in court using simplified proceedings.
For instance, a District Court judge could decide
the matter summarily. This simplified court
procedure is also employed when an accused person
makes an unreserved confession for a crime not
punishable by more than 10 years’ imprisonment,
and the confession is corroborated by evidence.
(Criminal Procedures Act, new as amended, Sect.
248, 1993; Kriminalitet og rettsvesen, 1992: 42).

An ordinary court trial can also be avoided:
(a) in cases where the prosecuting authority
decides not to prosecute, often with the condition
that the offender undertakes not to engage in
further criminal behavior; (b) in cases involving
persons under the age of 18, which are left to be
decided by municipal child welfare boards; and (c)
in cases which can be settled by arbitration
through the Conflict Board. (Criminal Procedures
Act, Sect. 69; Kriminalitet og rettsvesen, 1992:

*Proportion of prosecuted cases going to trial.
Investigations of felonies completed by the police
in 1991 resulted in 58,600 charges being brought
against 22,400 persons; 70% of the charges, and
approximately half of the persons charged, ended
up in trial. (Criminal Statistics 1991, 1993:
Of cases involving felonies which were
investigated in 1991, 77% were not cleared up by
the end of the year. Only 11% to 14% of cases
involving larceny were successfully investigated,
while figures for cases involving murder and
serious drug offenses were 84% and 89%,
respectively. Of those cases which were cleared
up in 1991, 19.5% resulted in charges being laid,of which 69.5% went to trial. (Criminal Statistics
1991, 1993: 27,28,51).
Just as the proportion of cases successfully
investigated varies by type of offense, so does
the proportion of cases going to trial, though
often to a smaller extent and not in the same
pattern. Approximately 75% to 80% of charges
involving larceny went to trial in 1991. The
figures for ordinary drug crimes, serious drug
crimes and murder were approximately 78%, 97% and
80%, respectively. These percentages were
calculated using numerical data from Criminal
Statistics 1991. (1993: 53-55).

Pre-trial incarceration conditions. A court of
examination and summary jurisdiction
(forhorsretten) can decide that an arrested person
be remanded in custody if any of the conditions
set out in Sections 171, 172 or 173 of the
Criminal Procedures Act are fulfilled. Pre-trial
incarceration shall be “as short as possible and
must not exceed 4 weeks”, but it can be extended
by up to 4 weeks at a time. (Criminal Procedures
Acts, Sect. 184, 185).
There is a provision for a person to forgo
arrest or be released from custody subsequent to
arrest if he or she gives certain guarantees.
However, this practice is rarely applied.
(Andenaes, 1993: 126; Criminal Procedures Act,
Sect. 181,188).

*Bail procedure. Information not available.

*Proportion of pre-trial offenders incarcerated.
In 1991, just over 20% (533 persons) of the total
average number of prisoners were in custody
awaiting trial. (Criminal Statistics 1991, 1993:

Note: this work was completed in 1993


See Also

  • Criminal Justice
  • Legal System
  • Criminology
  • Norwegian Criminal Justice System

Further Reading

  • Cole, George F., S. J. Frankowski, and M. G. Gertz, (1987) Major Criminal Justice Systems. Beverly Hills: Sage.
  • David, R. and J. E. Brierley (1968) Major Legal Systems of the World Today. London: Free Press.
  • Fairchild, E. (1993), Comparative criminal justice systems. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • Feeley, Malcolm M. (1973), “Two models of the criminal justice system”. Law and Society Review, 7(3): 407-425.

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